Scotland continues to lead emissions cuts

8th September 2011


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The amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced in Scotland has dropped by 30.5% since 1990, 2% more than the UK average, according to the latest figures from Defra.

The department’s annual GHG inventories, which collates data on emissions from each of the devolved governments, reveals that by the end of 2009 the UK had reduced its overall output of the harmful gases by 28.9% on 1990 levels.

England, which produces more than three-quarters of the UK’s total GHG emissions, only just lags behind its Northern neighbour having cut its emissions a further 7.5% in 2009, bringing its total output down 29.5% since 1990.

Wales, which had only cut its emissions by 11% in 2008, is also beginning to catch up, and is now producing 23.3% fewer greenhouse gases than in 1990. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland has cut its emissions by just 20.3%.

Ministers from the devolved administrations were quick to praise the figures, but each warned more work was needed.

“As encouraging as these results are, we must not be complacent about meeting our targets,” said Stewart Stevenson, Scottish minister for environment and climate change. “Events like the recent severe winters may have an impact on our emissions in future years.

“The challenge remains to find ever more innovative ways to drive down emissions, while creating a more sustainable, low carbon economy.”

Meanwhile, Welsh environment minister John Griffiths admitted that the economic downturn had been a major factor in driving down emissions in Wales, and to meet its 2010 pledge of cutting GHG emissions 3% year on year there needed to be greater engagement across the country.

“Looking ahead, we must maintain and look to enhance our efforts to reduce emissions in Wales and everyone has a role to play here,” he said. “People, communities and businesses across Wales need to take action to drive down emissions even further. It is this joint working approach that will help us to meet our ambitious targets.”

Northern Irish minister, Alex Attwood, reacted to the figures by arguing that the assembly government should be aiming for tougher targets.

“I will seek the executive and assembly’s agreement to put challenging targets on the face of a forthcoming climate Bill,” he said. “Northern Ireland can lead the way on these islands. The single fact is we can and must do better.”

Overall the UK has a commitment to reduce its GHG output by 34% on 1990 levels by 2020, while Scotland adopted the tougher target of 42%.

Defra’s report also details each of the country’s performance against cutting specific greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).

Overall the UK is performing well with substantial reductions including a 60.5% cut in methane creation, due to improvements in waste disposal and a 68.2% drop in PFCs due to better controls on aluminium production. However, carbon dioxide levels have only dropped by 19.7% and Defra warns that the 29.8% cut seen in HFCs production is being offset in a rising trend in emissions across all countries.

The news follows recent research which claims that EU emissions of HFC-23, the highly potent gas trifluoromethane, are much higher than those being recorded in member states’ GHG inventories.
According to the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), emissions of HFC-23 between July 2008 and July 2010 were 60–140% higher than the official figures in national reports in 2009.

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