Black mark: Britain's shame as carbon emissions climb

Power generators' switch from gas to coal sees 2.4-per-cent jump in 'carbon intensity'

Environment Editor

A A A

Britain's carbon emissions climbed by more than almost any other major economy last year, relative to its economic output, as power generators switched from gas to coal to take advantage of falling prices.

The amount of CO2 emitted per £1 of economic output - known as its carbon intensity - jumped by 2.4 per cent in 2012. This compared to a 2.7 per cent average decrease among the G7 leading economies and a 0.8 per cent drop worldwide.

Among the 20 biggest economies, only India and Japan saw a larger rise in carbon intensity - of 3.9 per cent and 4.9 per cent, respectively - while the US dropped by 5.9 per cent and Australia by 5.3 per cent, according to a new report from PwC, the consultancy.

Britain's rising emissions were largely down increasing coal use, as the US shale gas boom forced American mining companies to flood the European market with coal they can no longer sell at home.

However, despite the increase, the UK is still the second most energy efficient economy in the so-called G20 last year, behind Italy - reflecting, in part, its lack of heavy industry.

Britain's rising carbon intensity last year prompted a 2.6 per cent rise total carbon emissions as the economy grew by 0.3 per cent.

Elsewhere, the report warned that the world is hurtling towards the point at which a 2C increase in the temperature becomes all but impossible to avoid. This is the level at which the consequences of climate change become increasingly catastrophic.

"G20 countries are still consuming fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow. Despite rapid growth in renewables, they still remain a small part of the energy mix and are overwhelmed by the increase in the use of coal," said Jonathan Grant, PwC's director of sustainability and change.

"Something's got to give, and potentially soon. This has implications for a raft of investments in carbon intensive technologies that are currently being planned and executed today," he added.

The world is on track to burn within 21 years the maximum amount of fossil fuels that can be consumed if the world is to have a reasonable chance of staying within 2C global warming, according to PwC.

Based on the current rate of emissions reductions and economic growth predictions, the so-called carbon budget will have been used up by 2034.

The report finds that global carbon intensity needs to reduce by 6 per cent every year to the end of the century - a level that has never been achieved in a single year before and which compares to the recent level of 0.7 per cent.

"The results raise real questions about the viability of our vast fossil fuel reserves, and the way we power our economy. The 2 degrees carbon budget is simply not big enough to cope with the unmitigated exploitation of these reserves," Mr Grant said.

The report identified progress in becoming more energy efficient as "one bright spot" in its analysis.

Some 92 per cent of the small reduction in carbon intensity achieved last year is down to improvements in energy efficiency, with the remaining 8 per cent due to a shift towards cleaner energy. But the report warns there is a limit to which we can cut energy use per unit of GDP.

The report points out that the shale gas, or fracking, revolution in the US has helped lower emissions in the country as power producers switch from coal to cheaper gas. However, it says that this has merely increased coal usage elsewhere - for example in the EU and UK - "raising concerns that decarbonisation in one country can just shift emissions elsewhere".

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform