Government under fire over commitment to fighting climate change as UK carbon dioxide emissions rise more than other country in Europe

Greenhouse gas emissions jumped by 3.9% in 2012 as manufacturing increased

The Government has come under fire over its commitment to fighting climate change after a new report revealed that the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions jumped by more than any other country in Europe last year.

A Europe-wide survey that challenges David Cameron’s pledge to lead “the greenest government ever”, found that Britain’s CO2 emissions jumped by 18m tonnes, or 3.9 per cent, in 2012 as manufacturing increased, households turned up the heating and energy generators largely switched from gas to coal. Coal is more polluting than gas and its use has increased as the price of coal has fallen.

Luciana Berger, Labour’s shadow energy minister, said: “It is very worrying that David Cameron’s promise to lead the greenest government ever appears to have gone up in smoke,” adding that it was important to “invest in home-grown sources of clean energy”.

Greenpeace Energy campaigner Leila Deen added: "These figures are a stark reminder that the Coalition needs to take decarbonisation more seriously, starting with the electricity sector.”

Ms Deen said it was essential that on Tuesday MPs vote in favour of a proposal to make Britain’s electricity supply almost entirely green by 2030 – a move backed by the Liberal Democrats and Energy secretary Ed Davey and opposed by Chancellor George Osborne.

The UK’s increase in CO2 emissions is three times as big as the 6.4m tonne rise recorded by second-placed Germany last year and makes Britain one of only four countries in the EU 27 to see its emissions, according to the report by Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistics agency. Last year’s rise follows a decrease of about 7 per cent in Britain in 2011 as manufacturing languished and the country benefited from a relatively warm winter.

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said: “Cheaper coal relative to gas has resulted in a short-term increase in the amount of carbon emissions from UK power stations. The amount of coal generation is expected to decline rapidly by 2020 as a result of our move to a low carbon economy.”

The spokesman moved to head off criticism from some quarters that the rise in emissions represented a failure of green subsidies, which have been added to the energy bills of struggling consumers.

“Global gas prices have primarily been pushing up household energy bills – not green subsidies. Investing in home grown alternatives is the only sure-fire way of insulating our economy and bill payers from international energy price volatility,” he said.

In percentage terms, the UK’s 3.9 per cent rise in emissions was eclipsed only by Malta at 6.3 per cent – although the tiny size of the Mediterranean country means its relatively larger increase was less than one hundredth of Britain’s rise in absolute terms – 162,000 tonnes.

At 472m tonnes, Britain is second only to Germany in terms of carbon emissions and well ahead of third-placed France, which emitted 365m tonnes last year.

The CO2 emissions figure relates to the carbon dioxide generated from energy production, which represents about 80 per cent of the total emissions. Other sources of CO2 include industrial processes, such as cement making, which produces carbon dioxide when the calcium carbonate is heated and waste decomposition.

The Government’s aim to decrease its carbon emissions suffered a further blow as new figures showed a 97 per cent collapse in the number of installations of cavity wall insulations in the past year, from almost 40,000 in April last year to 1,138 last month.

Better insulation lies at the heart of the government’s drive to cut emissions, by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat homes. However, the slump indicates a lack of interest in the government’s new Green Deal programme, which ministers had hoped would spur the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War. Under the scheme, which was launched in January, people borrow money to pay for the insulation and repay the lender through their utility bills in the hope that the savings will be greater than the loan repayments. However, relatively high interest rates of up to 7 per cent, the inconvenience of having the builders in and confusion over how the scheme works have put many potential borrowers off. This has made the Green Deal less effective than the previous insulation incentive schemes it has replaced.

A DECC spokesman said: “It’s early days for the Green Deal. Official numbers on the number of installations won’t be available until the end of June, but the early signs are encouraging.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links