ONS data shows the contribution of the environment to the economy
- Business & Industry ,
- Agriculture ,
- Arts, entertainment and recreation ,
- Built environment ,
Progress is being made to decouple GDP and impacts on the environment.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently published the UK Environmental Accounts for 2016 and they paint a picture that shows we are heading in the right direction.
The accounts set out to measure: the contribution of the environment to the economy; the impact of economic activity on the environment; and society’s response to environmental issues. Data is available over a number of years for most of these. This is important because annual fluctuations in performance can often reflect changing economic or environmental conditions that can distort long-term trends, such as recessions and warm weather, which can affect energy consumption.
The key points are:
- energy intensity fell 40% between 1997 and 2014;
- total energy consumption was 9% lower in 2014 than in 1990, having peaked in 2005;
- fuel use decreased by 16.6% between 1990 and 2014, falling from 213.6 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) to 178.1 Mtoe;
- resources consumed per person fell 30% between 2000 and 2014;
- UK GHG emissions were 35% below 1990 levels in 2014, and provisional figures show emissions fell a further 3% in 2015 (see also pp28–29);
- resource productivity (the total amount of materials used by the economy in relation to economic activity) increased by 65.9% between 2000 and 2014;
- there were reductions between 1990 and 2014 in acid rain precurers (72%) and emissions of lead (98%);
- UK government spending on environmental protection between 1997 and 2014 increased from £4.1bn to £15.4bn or 1.9% of total government expenditure; and
- low-carbon and renewable energy activities generated a turnover of more than £46bn and employed 238,500 FTE in 2014.
The report also includes a section on natural capital accounting, including carbon stock accounts, which highlight the importance of soil as a bio-carbon stock. Based on an evaluation of the value of ecosystem services as a whole, the overall asset value of UK woodland was £168bn in 2014, with the recognition that ‘the value of a tree left standing provides up to 30 times more in other services than it would provide if cut down for timber’.
The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.
In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.
Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.
New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.