British greenhouse gases rise for first time since 2003

  • @mjpmccarthy

There was a significant increase in UK greenhouse gases in 2010 for the first time in several years, Government figures confirmed yesterday.

Emissions of the basket of carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto protocol, the international climate-change treaty, were more than 3 per cent higher that year than in 2009, according to final data released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Emissions of CO2 itself, the principal greenhouse gas, were almost 4 per cent higher.

The rise contrasted with a drop in 2009 of nearly 10 per cent, when emissions fell because of the recession.

The new spike is attributed largely to an increase in the amount of gas used to heat homes in the very cold weather at the beginning and end of 2010. Emissions from the residential sector rose by almost 15 per cent, the figures showed.

Total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 were estimated to be 590.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), which was 3.1 per cent higher than the 2009 figure of 572.5 million tonnes. These figures are slightly worse than the provisional estimates for 2010 which were published last April.

"Emissions were up in 2010 because of the exceptionally cold weather and greater use of fossil fuels," the newly appointed Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said yesterday.

"One year won't knock the UK off meeting its long-term emission reduction targets, but it serves to underline the importance of the Coalition's policies for insulating homes to cut bills and emissions and moving to greener alternative forms of energy."

But green groups said the figures represented a sign that the Government should increase its efforts to curb CO2. "If the Government ever needed a wake-up call on greenhouse-gas emissions, here it is," Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said.

"In particular it is alarming to see emissions from homes rising when people are struggling to pay their energy bills. The Government must ensure that its policies on energy efficiency deliver at scale to reduce emissions and protect consumers."

He added: "The UK's over-reliance on gas has pushed up emissions along with people's energy bills.

"It's a clear sign that the Government needs to back investors in renewable energy and get us off the fossil fuel hook once and for all."