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Climate change statistics are reported by way of reference to data on greenhouse gas emissions, which are collected through the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The report includes both total greenhouse gas emissions, as well as emissions from just carbon dioxide.

Publications

Emissions and Removals of Greenhouse Gases from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)
Department: Scottish Government
Emissions and removals of greenhouse gases from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)
Environment in Your Pocket
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Key facts and figures on the environment of the United Kingdom
Key Scottish Environment Statistics
Department: Scottish Government
Summary statistics for a wide range of environmental topics and main "drivers". These include electricity generation, road traffic, population and households.
Local Authority Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Department: Energy and Climate Change
The UK produces a breakdown of carbon dioxide emissions by Local Authority area as a subset of its annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.
Public Perceptions on Car Emissions
Department: Regional Development (Northern Ireland)
The publication contains data on public opinion regarding car/van emissions.
Public Perceptions on Climate Change in Northern Ireland
Department: Environment (Northern Ireland)
A statistical publication on public perceptions on climate change in Northern Ireland.
Public attitudes to climate change and the impact of transport
Department: Transport
Report summarising people's attitudes to climate change in relation to transport.
Regional Sustainable Development Indicators
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The indicators highlight issues within the priority areas of Sustainable Consumption and Production, Natural Resources, and Sustainable Communities.
State of the Environment in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Presents data on some of the key indicators monitoring progress against the Welsh Assembly Government's Environment Strategy.
Sustainable Development Indicators in your pocket
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
This National Statistics booklet presents and assesses the indicators - measures of everyday concerns including health, housing, jobs, crime, education and our environment.
UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Department: Energy and Climate Change
Presents results for UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, as well as performance against targets.
UK greenhouse gas emissions - quarterly statistics
Department: Energy and Climate Change
These statistics will be based on the energy statistics in DECC’s quarterly Energy Trends publications, and will enable trends in UK emissions to be monitored on a more regular basis. Each release will report on emissions in the most recent four quarters, and will include a weather-corrected series alongside the actual emissions series.

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Overview

The UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory acts as a record of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions for the purposes of both international and domestic reporting. 

The inventory provides data to assess progress against the UK’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. It also shows progress towards domestic goals to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions.

Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol is based on emissions in the UK along with Crown Dependencies and some Overseas Territories. Those territories included are those who were party to the UK ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.


Crown Dependencies are:

  • Jersey

  • Guernsey, and

  • the Isle of Man


Overseas Territories party to the UK ratification of the Kyoto Protocol are:

  • Bermuda

  • Cayman Islands

  • Falkland Islands

  • Gibraltar, and

  • Montserrat

These territories are included in the calculations as they are party to the UK ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

There are six gases in the ’basket‘ of greenhouse gases. These are: 

  • carbon dioxide

  • methane

  • nitrous oxide

  • hydrofluorocarbons

  • perfluorocarbons, and

  • sulphur hexafluoride

Greenhouse gas emissions are reported in units of ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’. All gases other than carbon dioxide are weighted by their global warming potential (GWP).

The GWP for each gas is defined as its warming influence relative to that of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1.

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Technical Data

Sources of emissions data

Emissions are calculated based on ‘activity’ data (data on all activities which generate emissions). These are combined with an ‘emission factor’ specific to that particular activity, which estimates the emissions generated by the activity in question. Emissions are reported in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

UK greenhouse gas emissions are reported in the National Inventory Report (NIR). This report is submitted each April to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It contains national greenhouse gas emissions estimates since 1990 and describes the methods used to produce the estimates. This submission constitutes the UK’s voluntary submission under the Kyoto Protocol.

Carbon dioxide is reported as total emissions minus total removals of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by ‘carbon sinks’. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines carbon sinks as ‘any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere’.

They are incorporated within the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, which cover afforestation, reforestation, deforestation and forest management.

Emissions are estimated in accordance with the rules agreed internationally for reporting to:

  • the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

  • the Kyoto Protocol, and 

  • the European Union

They correspond to UK territorial emissions and do not take account of the emissions embedded within the manufactured goods and services which the UK imports. There is currently no internationally agreed method to take account of these so-called ‘embedded emissions’.

There are currently three climate change National Statistics releases, covering results at UK level (two releases) and Local Authority (LA) level (one release). These are:

  • UK climate change sustainable development indicator: greenhouse gas emissions, final figures for the year before last published on the first Tuesday of February.

  • UK climate change sustainable development indicator: greenhouse gas emissions, provisional figures for the most recent year published on the last Thursday of March.

  • Carbon Dioxide emissions at local authority level, figures for the year before last published on the third Thursday of September.

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Glossary

  • Aerosol

    A collection of airborne solid or liquid particles, with a typical size between 0.01 mm and 10.00 mm that reside in the atmosphere for several hours. Aerosols may be of either natural or anthropogenic origin. They may influence climate in two ways: 1. directly through scattering and absorbing radiation, and 2. indirectly through acting as condensation nuclei for cloud formation or modifying the optical properties and lifetime of clouds.

  • Anthropogenic

    Created or modified by human action.

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

    Carbon dioxide contributes about 60 per cent of the potential global warming effect of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. Although this gas is naturally emitted by living organisms, these emissions are offset by the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants during photosynthesis. Because of this, they tend to have no net effect on atmospheric concentrations. The burning of fossil fuels, however, releases carbon dioxide fixed by plants many millions of years ago, and thus increases its concentration in the atmosphere.

  • Carbon dioxide equivalent

    The amount of carbon dioxide by weight emitted into the atmosphere that would produce the same estimated radiative forcing as a given weight of another greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide equivalents are computed by multiplying the weight of the gas being measured (for example, methane) by its estimated global warming potential (methane's GWP is 21).

  • Carbon equivalent

    A metric measure used to compare the emissions of the different greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential (GWP). Global warming potentials are used to convert greenhouse gases to carbon dioxide equivalents — they can be converted to carbon equivalents by multiplying by 12/44 (the ratio of the molecular weight of carbon to carbon dioxide).

  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

    CHP is the simultaneous generation of usable heat and power (usually electricity) in a single process. The term CHP is synonymous with cogeneration and total energy, which are terms often used in the United States or other Member States of the European Community. The basic elements of a CHP plant comprise one or more prime movers driving electrical generators. The steam or hot water generated in the process is utilised via suitable heat recovery equipment for use either in industrial processes, or in community heating and space heating.

  • Emissions

    In the climate change context, emissions refer to the release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors and aerosols into the atmosphere. These are monitored over a specified area and period of time.

  • Emissions factor

    An emission factor is an estimated pollutant emission rate relative to the level of industrial or other readily measurable activity for example the amount of coal burnt in a power station. They are used to derive estimates of air pollutant or greenhouse gas emissions based on the amount of fuel combusted.

  • Emissions trading

    A market-based approach to promote sustainable development and providing cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Installations within the UK are eligible to join either the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS), or the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), although the latter of these has now become the key focus for emissions trading within Europe.

  • EU-ETS

    European Union Emissions Trading System. This began on 1 January 2005 and involves the trading of emissions allowances as means of reducing emissions by a fixed amount.

  • Global Warming Potential (GWP)

    Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming. It is a relative scale which compares the gas in question to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is, by definition, one). A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval because the gases have different lifetime in the atmosphere.The different greenhouse gases are measured in tonnes of ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’.  Emissions of GHG in CO2 equivalent are calculated by multiplying their estimated emissions with their GWP. According to international practice, GWPs are those defined on a 100-year horizon.

  • Greenhouse gas

    A greenhouse gas is a gas present in the atmosphere that contributes to global warming through the greenhouse effect. The basket of six greenhouse gases reported to Kyoto is carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

    The IPCC is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). It has become the most comprehensive and authoritative source of material on climate change involving the participation of thousands of scientists from around the world and a long and open review process.The IPCC does not carry out research. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature. The reports and technical summaries are prepared wholly by the scientists from all regions of the world.

  • Kyoto Protocol

    The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These amount to an average of 5 per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.The Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations. Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity. 180 nations have ratified the treaty to date.

  • NAEI

    National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

  • National Allocation Plan (NAP)

    Under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) Directive, each EU country must have a National Allocation Plan. This lays down the overall contribution of the EU-ETS participants (the ‘cap’) for the country and the allowances that each sector and each individual installation covered under the Directive is allocated, effectively stating how much that sector can emit over the trading period of the scheme.

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOX)

    Nitrogen oxides. A number of nitrogen compounds including nitrogen dioxide are formed in combustion processes when nitrogen in the air or the fuel combines with oxygen.

  • Precursor of a greenhouse gas

    Atmospheric compounds, which themselves are not greenhouse gases or aerosols, can have an effect on greenhouse gas or aerosol concentrations. This is because of the compounds taking part in physical or chemical processes regulating their production or destruction rates.

  • Radiative forcing

    The extent to which a given concentration of a greenhouse gas raises global average temperature.

  • Ratification

    Formal consent to a treaty or agreement.

  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)

    Sulphur dioxide is a gas produced by the combustion of sulphur-containing fuels such as coal and oil.

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

    The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG). 192 countries have ratified the convention. Under the Convention, governments: 1. gather and share information on national policies and best practices 2. launch national strategies for addressing GHG emissions and adapting to expected impacts, and 3. cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.    

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Climate Change Statistics Team

Email: climatechange.statistics@decc.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 300 068 6563

Department of Energy and Climate Change Climate Change Statistics Team 6th Floor - Area D 3 Whitehall Place London SW1A 2AW

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