UK average greenhouse gas emissions
UK average carbon footprint: about 10 tonnes CO2 per person per year
The chart (right) is taken from the annual report of the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)  (with editing).
It shows the UK greenhouse gas emissions including imports/exports, but excluding aviation and shipping.
These emissions are known as "consumption emissions".
It can be seen that the UK total has fallen little since 1990.
Calculating the total UK CO2 emissions per personThe table shows the steps in calculating the UK's CO2 emissions per person. (Emissions from shipping are relatively small and not shown here.)
|1. Take the UK's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions - including imports/exports, but excluding aviation||770 million tonnes CO2 equivalent||BEIS |
|2. Take 80% of this as the UK total CO2 emissions - including imports/exports, but excluding aviation||80% x 770 million tonnes = 620 million tonnes CO2||BEIS |
|3. Add the UK aviation emissions of 80 million tonnes CO2 to give total CO2 emissions||620 + 80 = 700 million tonnes CO2||See UK Aviation Emissions below|
|4. Divide by the UK population of 67 million||700 ÷ 67 = 10 tonnes per person.|
So the UK's average carbon footprint including imports/exports and aviation is about 10 tonnes CO2 per person per year.
UK aviation emissionsThe figures for emissions from aviation by UK citizens are obtained from
- figures for aviation fuel used in the UK: 14.3 million tonnes oil equivalent in 2016 
- a conversion factor of 2.5 tonnes CO2 per tonne oil equivalent, to give the CO2 generated 
- an increase by a factor of 1.9 to allow for radiative forcing 
- an increase by a factor of 2.38 to allow for (a) return flights, and (b) the proportion of passenges at UK airports who are UK nationals 
The UK's average carbon footprint: over double the world averageThe world's total CO2 emissions are about 34 billion tonnes per year, which is 4.3 tonnes per year for each of the 8 billion global population.
So the UK's average of 10 tonnes per person 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 per year) or India's (2 tonnes per person per year) - see document 94.
The UK government quotes a carbon footprint figure of about 6 tonnes per person per yearThe chart shows the importance of including imports and exports in the UK's total emissions. It is taken from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) annual report  (with editing).
The lower (blue) line shows the greenhouse gas emissions that are 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 are the lower figures, which treat imports as if they are zero carbon. This is much criticised as being misleading or deliberately deceitful - see document 111.
UK average footprint including all greenhouse gasesAdding UK aviation emissions (80 million tonnes CO2 per year - see above) to the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions including imports/exports (770 million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year - see above) gives a total of 850 million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year.
This works out as 13 tonnes CO2 equivalent per person per year for the 67 million UK inhabitants.
|||2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures (Feb 2021) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, edited from Figure 1 on page 4 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/957887/2019_Final_greenhouse_gas_emissions_statistical_release.pdf|
|||2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures (Feb 2021) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (as above), reading off from the latest value (for 2017) from the line for "Consumption-based emissions" in Figure 1 on page 4|
|||2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures (Feb 2021) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (as above), from the pie chart on page 1|
|||https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/economy/environmentalaccounts/datasets/ukenvironmentalaccountsfuelusebytypeandindustry/current/fuelusebytypeandindustry.xls (accessed 13.12.18)|
First published: 2008
Last updated: 24 Sep 2023