In February, we released an article to highlight cuts to UK emissions resulting from changes in power generation practices – namely, switching from coal to a combination of gas and renewables. The source link provided in that article referenced a dataset (1990-2018), released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
For this article, a further dataset (1990-2017) is used, released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Importantly it also considers emissions embedded within imports. In contrast to the BEIS dataset (which purports a 43% emissions reduction between 1990-2018), total UK emissions when considering those imports fell to a lesser degree, by 16%.
Further observations using this dataset are provided in an article published by The University of Manchester. The author considers the datapoints between 1997-2016, where the data is considered more reliable. In brief, whilst GHG emissions from UK production fell, a large part of this was offset by an increase in the consumption of imports:
- UK production emissions – down 35% (431-282m tCO2e)
- Embedded import emissions – up 43% (277-355m tCO2e)
- Household emissions – down 12% (89-78m tCO2e)
- Road transport emissions – up 6% (65-69m tCO2e)
At the very least, this highlights how different datasets and ranges can be used/manipulated to obfuscate simple truths. Offshoring emissions does not make them unaccountable. Reviving national resources and the UK production industry with a focus on minimising emissions intensity will help to deliver the UK’s net zero ambition, and in the process create a valuable export – the know-how.