The UK has fallen well behind other European countries with attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption despite topping the table until 1999, according to a new report from the Office of National Statistics.
The new analysis shows the UK has slumped from heading the European Union of 27 nations to now being in 23rd position.
And the UK is also fast falling behind other EU countries with its share of renewable energy.
The details are contained in a new ONS report published to coincide with the United Nations World Environment Day next week and this year's theme of “The Green Economy: Does it include you?”
The short article of UK Environmental Accounts has been released for this event to show how the economy impacts on the environment.
Key highlights of today's report include:
* Between 1990 and 2009 the amount of CO2 equivalent green house gases emitted for every
tonne of oil equivalent used fell by one fifth.
• Between 1990 and 1999, the UK had the fourth largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
intensity of energy intensity in the EU-27, a greater reduction than the EU-27 average. However
between 2000 and 2009 the UK reduction was 23rd out of EU-27 countries, a smaller reduction
than the EU-27 average.
• The main reason for the reduction in emissions in the UK has been from switching to using fuel
types that emit less CO2 equivalent green house gases.
• Energy consumption from renewable sources of energy has trebled since 1990 however in 2009
the UK was placed 32 out of 34 OECD countries with around three per cent of total primary
energy supply from renewable sources.
• Energy supply in the UK has decreased by 12 per cent between 1990 and 2009. This was one of
the largest decreases and UK supply remains well below the OECD average.
• In the UK in 2009, 6.7 per cent of electricity consumed was generated from renewable sources.
This was 2.7 times below the EU-27 average of 18.2 per cent despite the UK proportion
increasing at 2.6 times the rate for the EU-27 between 1990 and 2009.
According to the latest UK Environmental Accounts, for each tonne of oil equivalent that was used
for energy in 1990, 3.71 tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases were emitted. By 2009, this
figure had dropped to 2.96 tonnes, a reduction of one fifth (20.2 per cent).
Between 1990 and 2009 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 21.9 per cent and for the same
period energy consumption in the UK decreased by 2.2 per cent.
Using Eurostat data it is possible to compare greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy consumption across Europe. Between 1990 and 1999, the UK had the fourth largest reduction in emissions intensity in the EU-27, a greater reduction than the EU-27 average.
However, when the analysis compares 2009 with 2000 the UK reduction was 23rd out of EU-27 countries, a smaller reduction than the EU-27 average.
Most of the reduction of emissions in the UK has been as a result of fuel switching. Natural gas emits less greenhouse gases than coal for each unit of energy that is produced. Use of natural gas increased from 51.1 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) in 1990 to 95.2 mtoe in 2001 but has since declined to 85.2 mtoe in 2009. Over the same period, use of coal for energy production halved, from 65.6 mtoe in 1990 to 31.2 mtoe in 2009, although there was an increase between 1999 and 2006 from 35.2 mtoe to 43.0 mtoe.
Fuel oil and gas oil also emit more greenhouse gas than natural gas and the use of these fuels decreased from 18.4 mtoe to 6.5 mtoe and 9.4 mtoe to 6.3 mtoe respectively.
Fossil fuel sources of energy provide around nine tenths of UK energy consumption. Energy from other sources such as nuclear energy, hydroelectric power and imports increased from 17.7 mtoe in 1990 to 25.0 mtoe in 1998 then decreased to 13.9 mtoe in 2008 before increasing to 16.7 mtoe in 2009.
Energy consumption from renewable sources of energy has trebled since 1990 (from 1.8 mtoe to 5.4 mtoe) which offsets the overall decrease in other sources. However in 2009 the UK was placed 32nd out of 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries
with around three per cent of total primary energy supply from renewable sources.
As well as looking at energy consumption it is also possible to look at the amount of energy supplied per person in different countries. Energy supply differs from consumption as it includes losses from distribution.
Energy supply in the UK has decreased by 12 per cent from 3,600 kg of oil equivalent per person in 1990 to 3,180 kg per person in 2009. Compared to other countries where data is available, this was one of the larger decreases and UK supply remains well below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 4,280 kg per person in 2009.
Focusing on electricity consumed rather than energy supplied, the percentage generated from renewable sources for the UK in 2009 was 6.7 per cent. This was 2.7 times below the EU-27 average of 18.2 per cent despite the UK proportion increasing at 2.6 times the rate for the EU-27 between 1990 and 2009.
The proportion of renewable sources used to generate electricity varied by country across the EU-27 in 2009. Austria generated the most electricity from renewable sources at around 66.8 per cent, followed by Sweden and Latvia at 56.4 per cent and 49.2 per cent respectively. All three of these countries have major hydropower.
Over a third of EU-27 countries generated less than 10 per cent of electricity from renewable sources in 2009. A previous study showed that between 1970 and 2008 over four fifths of domestic energy was for space and water heating, energy use for lighting and appliances increased but energy use for cooking in the home fell.
The estimates in this study were taken from the UK Environmental Accounts which are part of the
ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme. The programme aims to produce accepted and
trusted measures of the well-being of the nation - how the UK as a whole is doing.