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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 16:40 GMT
Carbon emissions show slight fall
By Roger Harrabin
BBC Environment Analyst

Drax power station (PA)
The UK wants a 60% CO2 reduction by 2050
The UK's carbon emissions fell by just 0.1% last year, and the government has admitted it must do more to tackle climate change.

The figures would have been worse if the UK's share of pollution from global flights and shipping had been included.

Analysis of the figures highlights key trends: emissions from homes went down, while road transport emissions went up.

UK aviation pollution increased overall but emissions from domestic flights went down as some switched to rail.

The UK has made big cuts in greenhouse gases other than CO2, so it is still on track to go well beyond its Kyoto commitments. But ministers are getting worried by their inability to make substantial cuts in the main human-produced greenhouse gas of concern - CO2.

"As a country we must do much more across the board," said Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. "We have to make a real change to every aspect of our lives and our economy. The government is taking steps to make that happen with the Climate Change Bill in Parliament."

'Hopeful sign'

The figures are estimates for 2005-2006. Mr Benn said that the decrease in emissions from the residential sector of 4%, repeating a similar success in 2005, was a hopeful sign.

Leaving aviation emissions out of the Climate Change Bill makes a mockery of the Government's climate strategy
Martyn Williams, Friends of the Earth

"People are much more aware of their impact on the climate than they were even a few years ago, and I'm hopeful that these figures will become a continuing trend as we all increase our efforts to cut our carbon footprints at home."

His department is concerned, though, about the 1.3% rise in transport emissions which is likely to be exacerbated by government policies to build more roads and runways.

Another problem area, electricity generation (up 1.5% thanks to the high gas price driving generators to coal) should be easier to combat as power firms are being squeezed by the European Emissions Trading System.

Emissions from domestic aviation decreased by 2.8%, while international aviation emissions increased by 1.5%, due to an increased number of flights. Between 1990 and 2006, emissions from aviation fuel-use more than doubled. A recent report from the Civil Aviation Authority showed fewer people were taking domestic flights.

Mr Benn said the trend demonstrated that Europe needed to bring aviation into an emissions trading system as soon as possible. Most analysts say this will not curb the growth in overall aviation emissions.


Controversially, emissions from international planes and ships do not get counted towards the UK's overall total. What is more, high-altitude aviation has a greenhouse effect estimated by the government at more than double that of CO2 alone, but this is not reflected in this indicator.

Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, Martyn Williams, said: "Leaving aviation emissions out of the Climate Change Bill makes a mockery of the government's climate strategy.

"It's plain unfair to expect all the other sectors of the economy to play their part in the fight against climate change while aviation remains outside the law."

Among the first tasks of the government's new independent Climate Change Committee, headed by Adair Turner, will be to decide whether the UK's 2050 target of a 60% CO2 reduction is a sufficient contribution to stabilising climate change, and whether aviation and shipping should figure on the national CO2 inventory.

Carbon emissions show sharp rise
27 Nov 06 |  Science/Nature
UK carbon emissions rise again
30 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature

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