UK carbon emissions still higher than when Labour came to power

3.2.2009   (Friends of the Earth)

Commenting on the final 2007 estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions published
today by the Government, Friends of the Earth’s climate campaigner Robin Webster


“UK emissions are slightly lower than 2006, but they are not falling nearly fast


“The figures distort the picture by failing to include the UK’s share of international
shipping and aviation emissions – the reality is that UK carbon dioxide emissions
are still higher than when Labour came to power in 1997, despite repeated promises
of significant cuts.


“The recently passed Climate Change Act commits the UK to slashing greenhouse
gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 – but it won’t meet this target without significant
changes in Government policy.


“The Government’s failing energy strategy must be completely overhauled. It must
focus on a huge expansion in green sources of power and cutting energy waste –
and plans to build new coal-fired power stations and bigger airports must be scrapped.

“This year’s UN climate talks in Copenhagen are critical. The UK government must
lead by example, commit itself to cutting its emissions by at least 40 per cent
by 2020 and develop a safe, clean and prosperous future for us all.”



Notes to Editors


1.     According to Government figures UK carbon dioxide emissions were (million
tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) 551.6 in 1997 and 542.6 in 2007.   (1.6% down).


Adding in bunker fuels changes the 1997 figure to 582.9 and the 2007 level to
584.9  (almost no change – slightly higher).


2.    In its  3 successful general election campaigns Labour has made manifesto
commitments to cutting UK carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010 (compared to
1990 levels).


3.   Under the Climate Change Act which was passed last year – and which Friends
of the Earth led the campaign for through The Big Ask – the UK is legally required
to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.     A series of five
year ‘greenhouse gas budgets’ will also be set to ensure that this target is kept
on track – the first series of emission budgets will be announced at the same
time as the Chancellor’s economic budget in the spring.


4.    Friends of the Earth is calling for urgent International action to prevent
a climate catastrophe. A strong and fair international deal to prevent runaway
climate change destroying our planet must be reached at the UN climate summit
in Copenhagen at the end of the year. This must include a commitment from rich
countries to reducing their own countries’ emissions by at least 40% by 2020  
– without offsetting

link to press release website



The full figures can be seen on the DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change) website .

The section relating to aviation states:


Emissions from UK-based international aviation and shipping bunkers

*** This is a UK sustainable development strategy indicator ***

Emissions from international aviation and shipping can be estimated from refuelling
from bunkers at UK airports and ports (whether by UK or non-UK operators).

Between 2006 and 2007, emissions from international aviation fuel use decreased
by 1.9%, although between 1990 and 2007 the level of these emissions has more
than doubled.   High altitude aviation also has a greenhouse effect over and above
that of carbon dioxide alone, but this is not reflected in this indicator.

Between 2006 and 2007, CO2 emissions from domestic aviation also decreased, by

The Government has recently set a new target for carbon dioxide emissions from
UK aviation, which requires them to be no higher than 2005 levels in 2050. This
target incorporates emissions from both domestic and international aviation.

Between 1990 and 1998 emissions from UK shipping bunkers increased by around
a third.     Since 1998 there has been a decrease of 23% in emissions from UK shipping
bunkers, although there was a 1.5% increase from 2006 to 2007.   However, UK operators
purchase most of their fuel outside the UK.

Under the guidelines agreed for UNFCCC, reporting emissions from international
aviation and shipping are not included in the UK’s emissions total, but these
estimates are reported as memo items in national greenhouse gas inventories.  
 Parties to the UNFCCC are required to act to limit or reduce emissions from international
services working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
and International Maritime Organisation (IMO).


Future updates to emissions estimates

Provisional estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions for 2008 will be published
as National Statistics towards the end of March 2009. This will coincide with
the publication of Energy Trends, which will include the first estimates of 2008
UK energy consumption.

Further Information

Further information on climate change, include Excel downloads of all the data
used to compile this statistical release, is available at: 

Explanatory notes

(1) The basket of greenhouse gases consists of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous
oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, all of which
are weighted by global warming potential (GWP). The GWP for each gas is defined
as its warming influence relative to that of carbon dioxide.

(2) Emissions are presented as carbon dioxide equivalent, in line with international
reporting and carbon trading protocols.


The climate change indicator, and the additional aviation and shipping indicator,
are two of the 68 indicators supporting the Government’s Sustainable Development