‘England’s green and pleasant land’ – ONS reveals just how green the UK is

Features

  • Author: James Evans, Office for National Statistics and Statistics Views
  • Date: 28 Jun 2013
  • Copyright: Image of Lake District appears courtesy of iStock Photo. Graphs appear courtesy of Office for National Statistics.

During this summer, the popular hymn ‘Jersualem’ will be sung at many weddings with the final lyrics ‘In England’s green and pleasant land’ echoing around the church walls. But just how green are we? Famed for our green meadows, dales, moors, lakes, white cliffs, just how good are we at looking after our country?

thumbnail image: ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ – ONS reveals just how green the UK is

The latest results from the Office for National Statistics on the UK environment reveal that the country’s consumption of fossil fuels is at its lowest level since records began in 1990. Similarly, greenhouse gas emissions have been dropping consistently with each passing year. Our use of renewables and waste resources has also vastly increased with the energy consumption 6.5 times greater in 2011 compared to 1990. Energy consumption from biofuels has increased from zero in 1990 to 1.9 Mtoe in 2011, and now contributes similar levels to energy consumption as other renewable sources. PM10 emissions, which are airborne particulate matter that can be caused by diesel engine vehicles and adversely affect health, fell 51.4% between 1990 and 2011, despite the use of diesel increasing.

'The ONS’s Environmental Accounts are “satellite accounts” to the main National Accounts. Satellite accounts are extensions to National Accounts, which facilitate analysis of the wider impact of economic change. They are compiled in accordance with the System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), which closely follows the UN System of National Accounts (SNA).

Environmental Accounts measure what impacts the economy has on the environment (for example, pollution) and how the environment contributes to the economy (for example, use of raw materials and resource efficiency) by using the accounting framework and concepts of the national accounts.

Energy consumption from biofuels has increased from zero in 1990 to 1.9 Mtoe in 2011, and now contributes similar levels to energy consumption as other renewable sources.

UK Environmental Accounts are used to inform sustainable development policy, to model impacts of fiscal or monetary measures and to evaluate the environmental impacts of different sectors of the economy. Most data are provided in units of physical measurement (mass or volume), although some are in monetary units, where this is the most relevant or the only data available.

Environmental Accounts are separated into three categories: Natural resource accounts - Oil and gas reserves; Physical flow account - Fossil fuel and energy consumption, atmospheric emissions and natural resources and Monetary accounts - Environmental taxes and environmental protection expenditure.'

Oil and Gas Reserves

'At the end of 2011, the upper range of total oil reserves and resources (discovered reserves and undiscovered resources) was 2,427.0 million tonnes. This was 39.8 million tonnes lower (1.6%) than in 2010. This was due to a 53.0 million tonne fall in the upper range of undiscovered resources, which was partly offset by a 13.2 million tonne increase in maximum discovered reserves. Total (maximum) discovered oil reserves increased by 13.2 million tonnes (1.2%) between 2010 and 2011 to 1,106.0 million tonnes. This was due to an increase in proven reserves.'

Energy Consumption

'Total energy consumption of primary fuels and equivalents is made up of the direct use of energy from fossil fuels, energy from renewable & waste sources, net imports of energy and nuclear energy.

• Total energy consumption in 2011 was 213.1 Million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), falling 12.8 Mtoe (5.6%) when compared with 2010.
• This is the lowest level of energy consumption since the series began in 1990.'

Renewables and Waste Resources

'In 2011, 8.8 Million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) of energy was consumed from renewable and waste sources, contributing 4.1% of total energy consumption.

Energy consumption from renewable and waste sources in 2011 was 6.5 times greater than in 1990. Total energy consumption from renewable and waste sources has risen year on year since 1991, with the exception of 1995 to 1996, where there was a 3.8% decrease.

GHG emissions intensity has been following a downward trend since the series began in 1997, declining by 38.7%.

There was a 14.0% increase between 2010 and 2011 in consumption from renewable and waste sources.'

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity

'Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity1 measures the level of GHG emissions per unit of economic output. It can be used to examine the relationship between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, a measure of sustainability.

Between 2010 and 2011 GHG emissions intensity fell by 5.0% to 0.38 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalent per £ million value added2.

GHG emissions intensity has been following a downward trend since the series began in 1997, declining by 38.7%. Over the period as a whole, although for the most part GVA increased, GHG emissions declined, which led to falls in emissions intensity.'

Summary

'The total discovered gas reserves peaked at 1,985.0 billion cubic metres in 1997, and declined 64.3% to 709.0 billion cubic metres in 2011. Fuel use of 193.6 Million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2011 is the lowest since the series began in 1990. In 2011 fuel use was 9.3% lower than in 1990 and 7.7% lower than in 2010. Natural gas use, the fuel used most since 1993, peaked in 2004 at 96.5 Mtoe, and has fluctuated since with 76.6 Mtoe consumed in 2011. Energy consumption from fossil fuels declined 7.4% between 1990 and 2011 to 188.2 Mtoe, the lowest level since the series began in 1990. Between 2010 and 2011, energy consumption from fossil fuels fell 7.8%. In 2011, 8.8 Mtoe of energy was consumed from renewable and waste sources, 6.5 times greater than in 1990. In 2011, this contributed 4.1% of total energy consumption. Greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 were at their lowest level at 634.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, 21.3% lower than when the series began in 1990..Total material requirement, a measure of the economy’s material needs, increased 5.5% from a record low between 2010 and 2011 to 1,730.5 million tonnes. In 2012 the UK government received £44.5 billion from environmental taxes, equivalent to 2.9% of Gross Domestic Product.' From these results, our children’s children may sing ‘Jersualem’ and still be able to look over our ‘green and pleasant land’.


Related Topics

Related Publications

Related Content

Site Footer

Address:

This website is provided by John Wiley & Sons Limited, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SQ (Company No: 00641132, VAT No: 376766987)

Published features on StatisticsViews.com are checked for statistical accuracy by a panel from the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics (ENBIS)   to whom Wiley and StatisticsViews.com express their gratitude. This panel are: Ron Kenett, David Steinberg, Shirley Coleman, Irena Ograjenšek, Fabrizio Ruggeri, Rainer Göb, Philippe Castagliola, Xavier Tort-Martorell, Bart De Ketelaere, Antonio Pievatolo, Martina Vandebroek, Lance Mitchell, Gilbert Saporta, Helmut Waldl and Stelios Psarakis.