A low carbon approach is vital to kick start and future proof our economy

February 1st, 2011 by Friends of the Earth

Official UK figures published on Tuesday 1 February 2011 show that UK greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 8.7% in 2009.

Responding to this, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said “Yes, emissions were down in 2009 but so was the economy so this is no time for back slapping. A low carbon approach has to be a vital part of kick starting and future proofing our economy, getting us off the oil hook and onto long term green growth. That’s why we’re wasting no time in reforming the electricity market, setting up the Green Investment Bank, and legislating for the Green Deal.”

Figures for 2010 will not be released until 2012 but early analysis suggests that emissions may have increased in 2010.

Friends of the Earth‘s Head of Climate Mike Childs said “the recession may have led to a fall in UK greenhouse gases in 2009, but our economy remains heavily addicted to fossil fuels – and early estimates suggest that emissions grew again last year.

“The Government must take urgent steps to wean the country off coal, gas and oil by investing in green energy and slashing energy waste – the Energy Bill, currently before Parliament, is a golden opportunity for action.

Pallets stacked with bags of coal wait to be distributed from St. Sampson (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

“The Bill must include new legislation to stop our homes leaking heat, boost renewable energy and require local councils to play their part in tackling climate change.

“We must build a clean, low-carbon economy out of the rubble of the old to create a safe and prosperous future for us all.”


In 2009, UK emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 566.3 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).

This was 8.7 per cent lower than the 2008 figure of 620.5 million tonnes. Between 2008 and 2009 there were decreases in emissions in all sectors, including 11.0 per cent (24.2 MtCO2e) from the energy supply sector, 11.8 per cent (11.5 MtCO2e) from the business sector, 36.5 per cent (6.0 MtCO2e) from industrial processes, 4.2 per cent (5.4 MtCO2e) from the transport sector, and 5.8 per cent (4.8 MtCO2e) in the residential sector.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 84 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. In 2009, UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were estimated to be 473.7 million tonnes (Mt). This was around 9.8 per cent lower than the 2008 figure of 525.1 (Mt). There were decreases in emissions of 11.5 per cent (24.1 Mt) from the energy supply sector, 13.1 per cent (11.5 Mt) from the business sector, 4.2 per cent (5.2 Mt) from the transport sector, and 5.9 per cent (4.7 Mt) from the residential sector.

The overall decrease in emissions has primarily resulted from two factors: a significant fall in energy consumption across all sectors, and an increase in the use of nuclear power rather than coal and natural gas for electricity generation. As the UK economy contracted during 2009, this resulted in an overall reduction in demand for electricity, together with lower fossil fuel consumption by businesses and households.

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