Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1989.

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Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam , Redcar 12:00 am, 24th July 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will publish the most up-to-date figures available from the United States Department of Energy Oak Ridge laboratories on carbon dioxide emission levels in the United Kingdom, France and West Germany for the two most recent years available.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

According to the Oak Ridge laboratory report the United Kingdom, West Germany and France are responsible for about 2·8 per cent., 3·3 per cent. and 1·7 per cent. respectively of the world's non-biogenic emissions of CO2. I will circulate a fuller answer, including a table of figures, in the Official Report.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam , Redcar

That selective use of the figures does not give us a true picture of the comparative level of carbon dioxide emissions by Britain, France and West Germany. Will the Minister tell us clearly whether Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide are higher than those of West Germany or France? A straight yes or no answer will be sufficient.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Does my hon. Friend believe that his Department has responsibility for collaborating with other Departments to plant more trees, which alone can take in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen, and so overcome the problem that we all fear so much?

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

As my hon. Friend has implied, my Department is not responsible for planting trees, but various aspects of our policies are aimed at reducing the increase in CO2 emissions, in particular our policy on the nuclear power industry. Some arguments suggest that the nuclear industry produces some CO2, but even the Friends of the Earth cannot present figures that show that it produces more than 4 per cent., far less than that produced by the coal industry.

The following is the information: The Oak Ridge national laboratory maintains a computer database of global CO2 emissions, including estimates for individual countries, covering the period from 1950 onward. A report on this database was published earlier this year and I will arrange for a copy to be deposited in the Library of the House. Since publication of the report, however, the database has been updated to include 1987 data and revisions to earlier data.

The latest estimates of carbon dioxide emissions in France (including Monaco), West Germany, the United Kingdom and the world as a whole, produced by Oak Ridge national laboratory, are given in the table for the two most recent years available. These emissions relate only to the combustion of fossil fuels and to emissions from cement manufacture and are expressed in million tonnes of carbon. The individual country estimates also exclude some emission sources such as bunker fuels.

All such estimates are of course subject to some uncertainty and Oak Ridge has estimated that even the global annual totals are subject to an uncertainty of 6 to 10 per cent. Figures for individual countries will be subject to even greater uncertainty because, for example, the estimates are based on global average carbon emission factors.

I have therefore provided a table giving the latest official estimates of United Kingdom emissions which are compiled by Warren Spring laboratory. These are compiled using a more detailed methodology and should therefore provide a truer picture of the United Kingdom situation. They also include emissions due to gas flaring at oilfields and other sources such as bunker fuels and incineration, which are not included in the Oak Ridge data.

CO2 Emission estimates compiled by Oak Ridge laboratory
West Germany184·9181·5
United Kingdom152·5156·1
Global Total55125599
United Kingdom CO2 Emission estimates compiled by Warren Spring laboratory
Total United Kingdom165·5166·3


1. All figures expressed as million tonnes of carbon.

2. All figures for individual countries rounded to one decimal place and the global total rounded to the nearest million tonnes but this does not necessarily reflect the precision of the data.

3. Oak Ridge figures include emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacture only and individual country estimates exclude bunker fuels. Warren Spring figures include emissions from additional sources such as gas flaring at oil fields, incineration and bunker fuels.

4. Figures for France include Monaco.