New research resets timeline for UK economy emissions

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CARBON emissions created by the UK economy peaked 35 years later than conventional estimates indicate, new report reveals.

Directly created carbon emissions peaked in 1972. However, once imported emissions, such as those produced when UK imports products that are manufactured abroad, are taken into account, UK emissions actually kept rising for many years and only peaked in 2007.

This new research was published today by the Office for National Statistics as a part of widening its economic measures beyond GDP to include the impact on people and the environment of UK economic activity.

“While directly produced UK emissions have been falling for many years, once you take account of the UK importing products from abroad, the picture doesn’t look quite so positive”, Amina Syed, Senior Economist, said.

“However, UK-based firms, particularly those in the transport and energy sectors, have made big strides in recent years in reducing their carbon footprints.”

The biggest source of imported emissions is China (82m tonnes in 2015), followed by the EU (45m tonnes), and the USA (24m tonnes).

When looking at the UK’s directly produce emissions, which continue to fall, the energy generation (-67%) sectors, manufacturing (-43%), water supply (-38%), and transport (-33%) saw the biggest falls in emissions between 1990 and 2017.

The new analysis on carbon emissions forms part of the ONS’s quarterly Economic Review.