UK’s carbon footprint still 20% higher than 1990

THE CARBON footprint of the UK is falling, according to a new report released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).


According to the study, the UK’s carbon footprint fell by 9% between 2008 and 2009. This follows a “steady rise” of 35% between 1995 and 2005.


However, the results are “cold comfort” according to experts, given that the 2009 footprint remains 20% higher than in 1990.


The UK has set legally binding targets to cut emissions by 80% by 2050 based on the 1990 figures. There is also an interim target to cut emissions by 34% by 2020. Both targets are set out in the Climate Change Act 2008.


The findings show just how far the UK has to go to meet these targets, said experts. James Swanston, founder of green transport company Carbon Voyage, said of the findings: “The factors contributing to lower emissions are reduced construction activity and lower use of heavy goods vehicles, which are fundamentally cyclical and will rise again when the economy picks up. It is only natural that carbon dioxide emissions generated domestically and embedded in imported goods will fall in a deteriorating economy.”


Luke Wreford, WWF-UK policy development officer added: “The figures showing a decline in the UK’s carbon footprint are cold comfort; they are due mainly to the economic downturn rather than a greener economy. The fact remains that the carbon footprint of our lifestyles is 20% higher than it was in 1990, due to our growing reliance on imports.”


Since 1990, the UK economy has continued to move from a manufacturing base towards a services sector, which means more and more goods are imported – all of which have an embedded carbon footprint. The reports states:


“Emissions embedded in imports used by businesses for UK consumption more than doubled, and emissions associated with the production of imports used directly by UK consumers increased by nearly 80 per cent. This reflects how we are increasingly importing relatively carbon intensive goods. We are also buying more, and a wider variety of products.”


Wreford added: “As well as meeting ambitious national targets for emissions produced in the UK, the Government should also commit to reducing emissions from UK consumption.”