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The Basics

What is your carbon footprint? For UK

Published on
September 8, 2021

The average carbon footprint per person in the UK is 5.3 tonnes, with the national level being at 351,5 million tonnes. A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted to support a person’s or country’s way of life. Because you are reading this, your carbon footprint is likely greater than the average as you have more financial resources. The carbon footprint is the result of every decision, activity and purchase an individual or entity makes. The main contributors are: food, energy, and other purchases you make on a day to day basis. To put it another way, emissions do not come only from directly burning fossil fuels. The national level is somewhat similar. Here we split out the most impactful sectors of the UK economy on an emissions source basis, i.e. we allocate based on where emissions are created directly rather than the end-user activity.

Transportation.

This sector encompasses road transport, railways, domestic aviation, shipping, fishing and aircraft support vehicles. Transportation contributes 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, primarily from carbon dioxide!  Now, you’re sat there thinking it must have been from the energy industry burning coal, oil and gas. It used to be but no longer due to significant reductions! Passenger cars greatly contribute to this sector’s patterns of carbon emissions due to their sheer numbers. In 2020, the country had 62.7% of its passenger cars using petrol and 19.7% are powered by diesel. Only 17.6% of vehicles are electric.

Energy Supply.

In 2019, the total amount of energy consumed in the UK was equivalent to 142 million tonnes of oil. Energy supply is 21% of total UK emissions. The industries that consume the most energy are commercial services, public administration, industrial services, and manufacturing of food, drinks, tobacco, chemicals and industrial services, totalling 30,278 million tonnes of oil burnt.  Household amenities contribute 19% to the UK’s total carbon emissions.  All the emissions from electricity used across businesses, industries and the residential sector are allocated here.

Residential.

In 2019, this sector contributed 65.2 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 19% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, encompassing things such as heating and cooking. 95% of homes in the country have heating, 85% of which use gas as their main source of power. When it comes to cooking, 38% of UK households own gas ovens, with the rest using electric ovens. The total average carbon emissions that can be emitted from a home is 20.2 tonnes.

Business.

In 2019, the business sector contributed 64.7 million tonnes of CO2, accounting for 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. When you use gas heating for your office, you contribute to these figures. This sector includes emissions from commercial sectors, industrial machinery and refrigeration and air conditioning.

Agriculture.

This sector mainly consists of livestock and agricultural soils, totalling 10% of the UK’s total emissions. Livestock in the country contribute 5% of the total greenhouse gases. Manure, and agricultural soils such as fertilizers make up 10% of agriculture's impact but methane and nitrous oxide are the dominant emissions.

Waste Management.

The waste management sector creates emissions from waste disposed in landfill sites, waste incineration, and the treatment of waste-water. This sector is responsible for 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, with 19 million tonnes of CO2 released in 2019 alone. Landfills equate to 70% of greenhouse gases in the waste management sector alone. Waste-water emits approximately 110,000 tonnes of CO2 a year with sewers collecting 11 billion litres of waste-water a day. The UK incinerates 10% of its waste with 2.67 million tonnes of CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity produced in this way.

Industrial Processes.

The industrial processes sector entail emissions from industry except for those with fuel combustion. Majority of this industry uses ozone depleting substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, contributing 14.17% of this sector’s emissions. The mineral, chemical and metal industry collectively release 14.22% of this sector’s emissions while products used for the manufacturing and electronic industry encompass 1.98%.

In 2019, this sector was responsible for approximately 2% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, with carbon dioxide being the most prominent gas.

Public.

The public sector consists of emissions from the combustion of fuel in public sector buildings. In total, the public sector contributes 2% to the UK’s total emissions. Schools contribute 1.32% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, releasing an average of 9.245 million tonnes of CO2 a year. Remember, in our breakdown, most of these emissions are found in the energy-use section because that’s where the emissions are directly created! For example, hospitals produce 5.4% of emissions annually, equivalent to 11 coal-fire powered stations. Commercial buildings indirectly cause 23% of the UK’s total emissions, as they are responsible for 59% for the country’s total electricity usage.

Land Use and Forestry Regulation.

The LULUCF sector looks at emissions from forest land, cropland, grassland, settlements and harvested wood products. This particular sector acted as a carbon sink for the UK in 2018, absorbing 1.3% of total emissions from other parts of the economy. From 2017-2018, there was a 2% increase in the net sink that was provided by this sector.

Sources for reference.

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