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BusinessGreen: UK confirms that it hit first carbon budget


The UK cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet its first carbon budget, according to new figures released today by the government.

However, the latest official data also suggests CO2 emissions are on the rise again as the UK recovers from recession and the energy industry struggles to engineer a switch away from carbon-intensive coal power.

According to the final figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the UK emitted 2,987.1 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for the first carbon budget period between 2008 and 2012.

The Climate Change Act required the UK to emit no more than 3,018 MtCO2e in the five-year period, and as such the data indicates the UK was well within its budget.

"We have reached an important milestone today," said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey. "The UK has met its first carbon budget, which is the first step in fulfilling our commitment to cut Britain's emissions by 80 per cent to 2050."

The figures also suggest the UK exceeded the demands of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol, which required 12.5 per cent emissions cuts on average against a 1990 baseline. The UK cut average annual emissions for the period by 22.5 per cent compared with 1990.

However, ministers have also admitted that much of the fall in carbon emissions can be attributed to the drop-off in manufacturing during the recession that began in 2008 and today's data shows that emissions rose 4.4 per cent from 2011 to 2012 as homes turned up the gas to keep warm in a cold winter.

Davey admitted that the increase in emissions in 2012, compared to 2011 was worrying, however, he said the rise should be put in context of rising gas prices which increased the demand for coal and a very cold winter. 

"Green investment has been booming in the UK, with renewable electricity generation doubling and £31bn of renewable energy investment announced since 2010. Now with the Energy Act 2013, we can look forward not just to hitting our renewable targets for 2020, but beating them," he added.

WWF Scotland said the figures were particularly worrying for Scotland's own annual carbon reduction targets, which were missed in 2010 and 2011.

"This data should ring alarm bells for Scottish ministers," said WWF Scotland director Lang Banks. "Increased UK-wide emissions in 2012 are a bad omen for Scotland, indicating that we could be on track for a third missed climate change target in a row."