Recession forces down UK emissions

9th March 2011

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation



UK greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in 2009 were 8.7% lower than in 2008 thanks largely to the recession, which saw a significant fall in energy consumption across all sectors of the economy.

The data, from DECC, reveals that UK emissions in 2009 of the basket of six GHGs covered by the Kyoto Protocol – carbon dioxide, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride – were estimated to be 566.3 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (mtCO2e). The figure in 2008 was 620.5mtCO2e.

DECC said that the primary reason for the sharp decline in emissions in 2009 was the economic slowdown, which resulted in an overall reduction in demand for electricity, together with lower fossil-fuel consumption by both businesses and households.

“Yes, emissions were down in 2009, but so was the economy, so this is no time for back slapping,” commented energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne.

A return to economic growth is likely to see emissions rise again.

Between 2008 and 2009 emissions fell in all sectors, with the biggest decrease in industrial processes, where discharges declined by 36.5%.

In other parts of the economy, emissions fell 11% in the energy-supply sector; 11.8% in the business sector; 4.2% in the transport sector; and 5.8% in the residential sector.

GHG emissions from the energy-supply sector in 2009 were 28% lower than in 1990, while the business sector was emitting 24% less in 2009 compared with 1990.

By contrast, residential emissions have reduced only slightly, by around 3%, since 1990, and emissions from transport remain at the same level as 1990.

Emissions of CO2 – which account for 84% of UK GHG discharges – fell further in 2009 than the basket of six GHGs overall, declining by 9.8% compared with the 2008 figure.

Total CO2 discharges in 2009 were 473.7 million tonnes (mt).

In 2008, CO2 emissions totaled 525.1mt. Emissions of CH4 and N2O both fell further in 2009, continuing the recent trend.

CH4 emissions, excluding those from natural sources, were down 2% in 2009 compared with 2008, and have fallen 61% since 1990.

N2O discharges fell a further 5% in 2009 compared with 2008, and have now declined by 49% since 1990.

Methane, weighted by global warming potential, contributed about 8% of the UK’s GHG emissions in 2009, while N2O discharges accounted for 6%.

GHG emissions in the UK by sector: 1990–2009 (mtCO2e)

Sector 1990 2000 2009
Energy supply 272.1 218.6 195.0
Transport 122.1 127.3 122.2
Business 112.4 110.5 85.9
Residential 80.8 90.1 78.6
Agriculture 63.0 57.3 49.5
Waste management 59.0 31.5 17.9
Industrial processes 54.3 24.4 10.4
Public 14.1 11.7 8.2
Land use, land-use change and forestry 3.9 0.4 –4.1
Total 781.6 672 563.6

Source: DECC


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Hello and welcome to another edition of Transform. I hope that you’ve had a good and productive few months so far.

28th March 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close