British industry has performed far better than expected in cutting emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), ministers say.
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
Thousands of companies achieved cuts in 2002 totalling nearly three times above the agreed targets.
Steel cut emissions, and output
Most of the reduction was in the steel industry, which has cut output because of severe problems.
But the government says the UK should manage to reduce its overall emissions by almost twice its international obligations.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said industry had cut the amount of CO2 it produced in 2002 by 13.5 million tonnes, more than 10m tonnes above the targets agreed under climate change agreements (CCAs).
The government signed 10-year CCAs in 2000 with 44 industry sectors, representing more than 5,000 companies. They include the UK's most energy-intensive industries - steel, aluminium, cement, chemicals, paper, and food and drink.
Defra says most of the cuts were achieved by the steel sector, but the rest of industry also beat their own targets by almost 1m tonnes.
Levy's silver lining
In 2001 the government introduced the climate change levy, intended to encourage industry and business to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Many industry leaders have objected to it, saying the penalties it imposes on them outweigh any benefits to society.
The government allows energy-intensive industries which sign CCAs to qualify for an 80% reduction in the levy. Of 12,000 individual sites covered by CCAs, 88% met their targets and have had their reductions renewed.
Other energy-hungry sectors contributed
The Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, said: "The UK leads the world in meeting the challenge of climate change, and today's figures are another boost for the government's aim to cut our CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050.
"Estimates show that UK CO2 emissions fell again last year, and industry's contribution under CCAs is significant." He said the result was "very good news for the CCAs".
To achieve the 12.5% cut in greenhouse gases to which the UK is committed internationally, it will need to reduce COs emissions by about 35m tonnes by 2020.
Mr Meacher said he expected the UK to exceed the 12.5% cut, agreed under the Kyoto Protocol.
He said: "I believe we continue to be on target to reach a 23% reduction, which is probably better than any other country in the world, although probably equal with Germany."
The Sustainable Energy Minister, Lord Whitty, said: "This is good news for business, and good news for the environment.
"Industry has shown that it is prepared to play its part in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."