Country successes

United Kingdom

Flag_of_the_United_KingdomThe UK economy grew by 124.6% from 1990 to 2005. As of 2005, the UK achieved a 15.3% reduction in GHG from their 1990 level.


The UK’s Kyoto Protocol obligation is to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 12.5% below the 1990 level, in the 2008-2012 period.

Their more challenging, self-imposed domestic goals are to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by

  • 20% below 1990 levels by 2010
  • 26-32% by 2020
  • > 60% by 2050 (1)

The UK has exceeded its Kyoto target but meeting its self-imposed domestic goal for CO2 will be challenging. 2006 figures indicate that greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 20.7% compared with 1990 if carbon emission trading is included (i.e. EU Emission Trading Scheme (2)), and 16.4% excluding trading. In other words, UK large final emitters (LFE) were net purchasers of emissions credits.

The UK forecasts that greenhouse gas emissions will fall by over 23% by 2010.

They have not been as successful in cutting carbon dioxide emissions. In 2006 they were 12.1% lower than the base year and 6.4% lower excluding trading. They are forecast to fall by at least 16% by 2010.


The UK has achieved their reduction by addressing four target areas:

  • 40% – improvements in energy efficiency
  • 30% – due to lower emissions of non-CO2 GHGs
  • 20% – “Dash for gas” – a massive conversion of electrical generation from coal to natural gas
  • 10% – changes to renewables and other lower carbon fuels

Energy efficiency

The majority of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are due to improvements in energy efficiency. This has been driven by a wide range of policies, including

  • taxes to encourage greater energy efficiency in business and the public sector
  • voluntary agreements where the operators pay a reduced rate of tax in return for meeting challenging energy efficiency targets over a 10 year period
  • an organization (Carbon Trust) that gives guidance and support to companies trying to reduce emissions
  • requiring electricity and gas suppliers to achieve targets for the promotion of energy efficiency improvements

Non-CO2 GHGs

Methane and nitrous oxide emissions have been reduced by 53% and 40% respectively in the following areas:

  • Industry – Reductions have come via enforced emissions controls regulation.
  • Waste – Reductions have come from reducing the amount of waste going into landfill, and incentives to collect and burn landfill gas. A modern landfill site in the UK collects and utilizes at least 90% of the methane produced as waste decomposes.

Electrical generation

Natural gas boiler technologies (e.g. combined cycle) are much more efficient than coal for producing electricity. (3) Starting in 1993, and continuing through to the 1990s, the massive conversion of electrical generation from coal to natural gas was sparked by the

  • privatization of the National Coal Board, British Gas, and the Central Electricity Generating Board
  • introduction of laws facilitating competition within the energy markets
  • availability of cheap gas from the North Sea

In 1990 just 1.09% of all gas consumed in the country was used for electricity generation. By 2004 the figure was 30.25% (4). By 2004, coal use in power stations had fallen by 43.6% (5)

Renewables, etc

The UK Renewables Obligation legislation supports generation of renewable electricity.

Also, there has been a move toward higher use of diesel in truck transport and an increasing use of biofuels in transport.

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