Fresh analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests the carbon emissions created by the UK economy peaked 35 years later than conventional estimates indicate.
Directly produced 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 finding forms part of new research published today by the ONS, as part of its work to widen its economic measures beyond GDP to include the impact on people and the environment of UK economic activity.
The biggest source of these imported emissions is China (82 million tonnes in 2015), followed by the EU (45 million tonnes), and the USA (24 million 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.
Read more in the decoupling of economic growth from carbon emissions: UK evidence article.
Commenting on the figures Senior Economist Amina Syed said:
“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.
“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 new analysis on carbon emissions forms part of the ONS’s quarterly Economic Review and will be discussed at this morning Economic Forum, being held at the Bank of England.