LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2 percent in 2012 from a year earlier due to a move from natural gas to coal for power generation and increased use of heating during a cold winter, final government data showed on Tuesday.
Britain, the world’s ninth largest emitter in 2012, saw greenhouse gas emissions reach 581.2 million tons compared to 563.2 million tons in 2011.
Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, accounted for 82 percent of 2012 emissions, rising 4.4. percent to 474.1 million tons from 2011.
The bulk of the emissions, some 35 percent, came from power generation, followed by the transport sector at 21 percent, business at 15 percent and residential at 13 percent.
Since 1990, Britain’s emissions had been mostly sliding as power stations used less coal and more gas to generate power.
They jumped in 2010 when the economy began to pick up after the financial crisis in 2009 and fell again in 2011 due to the greater use of renewable energy.
In 2012, however, coal overtook natural gas to become the biggest single source of Britain’s electricity. This was mostly due to the U.S. shale gas boom, which made it less economical to burn coal there and instead it was exported to Europe.
A colder than average winter in 2012 also pushed up demand for energy for heating.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s pact to help curb emissions, Britain has to cut emissions by 12.5 percent below 1990 levels over the period 2008-2012.
Britain also has its own national carbon budgets which are set over five-year periods towards a 2050 goal of cutting emissions at least 80 percent below 1990 levels.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change told Reuters the 2012 statistics showed that Britain had met its first so-called carbon budget which runs from 2008-12.
The budget put a limit on Britain’s emissions at 3.018 billion tons over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012.
“UK emissions (...) were 2.982 billion tons after taking account of emissions trading, 36 million tons below the cap,” the spokesman said.
“UK emissions under the Kyoto Protocol were an average 22.5 percent below base-year levels over this period after taking account of emissions trading,” he added.
Reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by David Evans