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UK Greenhouse Gas Trends

April 28, 2016

By Paul Homewood




Provisional data published by DECC at the end of March suggest that UK GHG emissions fell to 497.2 MtCO2e in 2015, a reduction of 38% from 1990 levels. In other words, we are already close to the 40% cut agreed by the EU as their 2030 target under the Paris Treaty.

Ominously however, DECC have this to say:




We can be sure that the UK will end up having to contribute much more than its 40% share! We already know, of course, that the Fourth Carbon Budget legislates for a cut of 52% by 2023-27, and the CCC are proposing to increase this to 57% for 2028-32, implying an annual figure of 342 MtCO2e, or a cut of 31% from current levels.

This will be much harder to achieve as we have effectively been picking the low hanging fruit so far. 




DECC have not published the detailed 2015 numbers yet, but 2014 looked like this:




There are only the first four sectors that can make any meaningful difference.

First, Energy Supply, ie electricity:




CO2 emissions have halved since 1990, mainly due to the big drop in the use of coal. Eliminating coal completely will save 74 MtCO2e, but some will inevitably be offset by greater use of gas, even under the most optimistic decarbonisation scenarios.

The net saving is more likely to be around 60 MtCO2e.




However, what none of this takes into account is the likelihood that electricity demand will rise significantly, both because of rising population and electrification. 


But then it starts getting difficult!

If we look at the next biggest sector, Transport, we find very little change in emissions in recent years.




Although cars are becoming more fuel efficient, this is offset by more cars on the road.





Again, with Business we find little change recently, other than the fall out after 2008.




Interestingly, the Provisional 2015 Report states:


Business sector emissions decreased by 3.1 percent (2.2 Mt) due to a reduction in the use of blast furnace gas for iron and steel industrial combustion (driven by the SSI steelworks at Redcar ceasing production in mid-September 2015).


Closure of industry seems to be the only way big inroads can be made into industrial emissions.


Finally, there’s Residential.

Emissions in 2014 were unusually low because it had been such a mild year. DECC estimate that the temperature effect reduced emissions by about 20 MtCO2e (this includes electricity supply as well).





Some savings over the years have been achieved by better insulation etc, but, with a rising population, it is not clear that there is much scope for further savings without radical changes.


All in all, beyond the substitution of coal, it is difficult to see how any other significant reductions can be made. It is easy to see why ridiculous schemes, such as the hydrogen project in Leeds, are being taken so seriously.  

  1. April 28, 2016 11:44 am

    Do Drax and other bio-fuel burners count their biomass carbon dioxide or is this clean, renewables?

    Hard to see how the domestic usage has reduced, it is purely weather dependent: must prove global warming or creative accounting.

    • April 28, 2016 12:24 pm

      Biomass is not counted

      • April 28, 2016 4:44 pm

        So Drax has actually increased its CO2 emissions while the record shows it emitting less, “…what a crazy world we’re living in”.

  2. Terbreugghen permalink
    April 28, 2016 12:09 pm

    Don’t you know? The 40% reduction targets will now be based on the 2015 numbers!

  3. Swisspeasant permalink
    April 28, 2016 2:47 pm

    Exporting steel production to China is not a reduction. It is a simple accounting trick.
    I wonder what our emmissions record since 1991 would look like based on our consumption and not production. Also what consumption levels they would have to enforce to get a genuine reduction. It would make Venezuelan two day weeks look like a picnic.

  4. Green Sand permalink
    April 28, 2016 2:54 pm

    “…..a reduction of 38% from 1990 levels….”

    With a paper reduction of that level it is no wonder they are happy to throw money at CO2 producing STOR and coal to keep the lights on next winter. Pity about the energy intensive industries….

  5. April 28, 2016 3:05 pm

    It will be interesting to watch what happens in Germany. Despite over 80GW of wind and solar capacity their CO2 emissions have been rising since 2013 and are now higher than in 2009.

    They need an 18% reduction to hit their 2020 target. Even their government admits this is unlikely.

  6. Le Gin permalink
    April 28, 2016 3:12 pm

    O/T but what’s happened to the xmetman blog? Anyone any idea?

    • Joe Public permalink
      April 28, 2016 3:31 pm

      A few days ago, I too noticed he’d deleted his blog.

      Sad, because he produced some excellent work that was widely appreciated.

    • Dvaid Richardson permalink
      April 28, 2016 4:18 pm

      I think Bruce, who is the xmetman, usually reads NALOPKT – so I guess if he wants to tell us he will. I echo Joe’s comments above.

  7. April 28, 2016 3:41 pm

    DECC projects that CO2 emissions per TWh from electricity generation will halve between 2015 and 2027 and halve again by 2033. They don’t disclose how it will be achieved.

    • April 28, 2016 3:53 pm

      Total emissions from power are 101 MtCO2e, incl 74 from coal. So it’s not unreasonable.

      • April 28, 2016 6:16 pm

        But coal will be gone by 2025, so are they expecting that the reduction beyond 2025 will be nuclear replacing gas?

  8. April 28, 2016 3:52 pm

    If you ever wondered about what error bars should be applied to CO2 emission estimates from fuel consumption, have a look in the sausage factory:


    From the Abstract:
    The result is a multifaceted examination of the uncertainty associated with fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission estimates. The three assessments collectively give a range that spans from 1.0 to 13% (2 σ). Greatly simplifying the assessments give a global fossil fuel carbon dioxide uncertainty value of 8.4% (2 σ).

  9. Ian Miller permalink
    April 28, 2016 4:19 pm

    CO2 Emissions …….RUBBISH !!

    The WHOLE THING IS ONE BIG FRAUDULENT FARCE designed by a despicable unelected political so-called ‘ELITE’ having it’s long term aim in mind to suppress humanity and prevent it’s further economic development and growth.

  10. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 29, 2016 9:17 am

    When they get desperate, I suppose they will encourage mass emigration so we can meet our emissions targets. At least, I hope they’ll let us have our lives…

  11. April 29, 2016 9:30 am

    Pursuing arbitrary targets is obviously more important to UK politicians than the energy security of the population. Voters take note.

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