People and households produce highest CO2 emissions


Consumer expenditure is the largest single UK emissions contributor, at 26 per cent of the total according to new official figures.

Publication of the UK’s Environmental Accounts also shows that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from UK households increased by three per cent to 502 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt Co2e) between 2020 and 2021 rising seven per cent to 135 Mt Co2e .

Energy from renewable sources accounted for 13 per cent of total UK energy use in 2021, decreasing slightly from 14 per cent in 2020, according to the Environmental Accounts that measure the contribution of the environment to the economy, impact of economic activity on the environment and response to environmental issues.

The data follows earlier ONS figures this year which showed natural capital contributes around £51 billion to the UK economy every year – a greater proportion of economic output than the construction of buildings and telecommunications.

Diane Crowe, Head of Sustainability at Reconomy Group, the global circularity experts, commented: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to achieving the nation’s net zero objectives. We have made huge strides as we have seen with the emission intensity reducing by over two-thirds (67 per cent) since 1990 as we move towards a lower carbon economy. The past two years of data have been heavily impacted by the pandemic but the long-term trend is going in the right direction – we are making headway however there is a long way to go.

“That consumer spending and household consumption remains the biggest segment of emissions is a reminder that we all have a role to play in the battle against climate change. Evidently, the past two years of data have been impacted by the pandemic which has seen, for example, the emissions of the transport industry significantly reduce as planes, trains and automobiles all saw significantly reduced traffic.

“The energy sector has significantly reduced its emissions as the transition to renewable sources accelerates although it was disappointing to see the proportion of energy from renewables dip in 2021. Given the soaring cost of energy bills in 2022 prompted a renewed focus on the renewable sector it will be interesting to see how that trends in next year’s data and beyond.

The data also showed that waste is the largest contributing activity to the environmental goods and services sector, employing over 100,000 full-time equivalent employees.

“The waste management industry is critical to the circular economy. Increasing digitisation, tech capabilities and data-led services are helping businesses and households re-use and recycle more efficiently.

“The more of the finite resources that we can retain and harness within a circle of re-usage means the less finite resources we need to obtain.”

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