UK average footprint


The UK average carbon footprint is about 10 tonnes CO2 per person per year.

This is about double the world average.

It has fallen little since 1990.

The UK government quotes a much smaller figure of about 6 tonnes CO2 per person per year, but this excludes imports/exports, aviation and shipping. This misleading reporting is much criticised - see document 111.

Including all greenhouse gases, the UK average footprint is about 13 tonnes CO2-e per person per year.

UK average carbon footprint: about 10 tonnes CO2 per person per year


The chart shows the UK greenhouse gas emissions including imports/exports, but excluding aviation and shipping.

These are known as "consumption emissions".

It is taken from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) annual report [1] (with editing).

It can be seen that the UK total has fallen little since 1990.

The annual figures with sources are as follows.

UK total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions - including imports/exports, but excluding aviation770 million tonnes CO2eBEIS [1]
Take 80% of this as the UK total CO2 emissions - including imports/exports, but excluding aviation80% x 770 million tonnes = 620 million tonnes CO2BEIS [1]
Add the UK aviation emissions of 80 million tonnes CO2 to give total CO2 emissions620 + 80 = 700 million tonnes CO2See Aviation emissions below
Divide by the UK population of 67 million700 / 67 = 10 tonnes per person
Emissions from shipping are relatively smaller and not shown here.

So the UK's average carbon footprint including imports/exports and aviation is about 10 tonnes CO2 per person per year.

UK aviation emissions

The figures for emissions from aviation by UK citizens are obtained from

The UK's average carbon footprint: over double the world average

The world's total CO2 emissions are about 34 billion tonnes per year, which is 4.3 tonnes for each of the 8 billion global population.

So the UK's average of 10 tonnes per year is over double the world average.

The UK's average annual footprint is much higher than China's (which is 6 tonnes per person) or India's (2 tonnes per person) - see document 94.

The UK government quotes a carbon footprint figure of about 6 tonnes per person per year

The chart shows the importance of including imports and exports in the UK's total emissions. The lower (blue) line shows the greenhouse gases emissions released within the UK (known as the "territorial emissions"), and the upper (green) line shows the emissions once imports and exports are included. The figures that the UK Government quotes is the lower figure, which treats imports as if they are zero carbon. This is much criticised as being deceitful - see document 111.

References

[1]2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures (Feb 2021) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/final-uk-greenhouse-gas-emissions-national-statistics
[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/economy/environmentalaccounts/datasets/ukenvironmentalaccountsfuelusebytypeandindustry/current/fuelusebytypeandindustry.xls
[3]https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.EG.ZS
[4]https://www.carbonindependent.org/22.html

First published: 2008
Last updated: 26 Nov 2021