CO2 emissions hit new low

The UK's emissions of carbon dioxide fell to their lowest level for many decades last year, according to a provisional estimate given in a parliamentary answer by junior Environment Minister Angela Eagle in April.1

The figures in the table show the UK's emissions of CO2 calculated in accordance with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's guidelines. Pre-1990 data were calculated on a different basis, but it is almost certain that last year's emissions were below the previous low recorded during the miners' strike in 1984.

The figures show a continuation of the overall downward trend in emissions as well as the influence of weather. Low temperatures during part of 1996 were mainly responsible for that year's increase in emissions. The converse applied last year. The emission reduction occurred despite a 1.5% increase in road traffic in 1997, with goods traffic showing a sharper increase of 4%.

The previous Government expected CO2 emissions to be 4-8% below the level in 1990 - the baseline year for emission targets set under the UN Convention on Climate Change - by 2000. However, last year's figure was almost 8% below the 1990 level.

The latest official projections are that emissions will begin to pick up again in the next decade without further policies, rising above the 1990 baseline around 2008. However, the projections are under review as part of work on the Government's climate change strategy in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, a possible reallocation of national emission targets within the EC, and the Government's promise to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% below the 1990 level by 2000. The strategy and revised projections are due to be published this summer.

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