Environmental groups have blasted the UK government’s record on climate change, after new figures revealed that greenhouse gas emissions rose an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2010.
Provisional estimates released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released on Thursday indicate that UK emissions rose last year to the equivalent of 582.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, compared to 566.3 million in 2009.
CO2 represents around 84 per cent of the total - up 3.8 per cent on 2009, the first year-on-year rise since 2005.
Under the UN's Kyoto Protocol, Britain is committed to cutting emissions to 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 to 2012. The UK’s own Low Carbon Transition Plan commits it to a total reduction of 34 per cent by 2020.
Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne blamed much of the rise on domestic consumption, saying:
"Britain’s blighted by inefficient and draughty homes which is why we want to help people waste less energy through the Green Deal and install new cleaner technologies to heat their homes.
"As we come out of recession, the Coalition’s determined to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. That’s why we are pushing on all fronts to turn around Britain’s woeful record on renewables."
According to the new figures, 39 per cent of the UK’s CO2 emissions came from the energy sector, with 25 per cent from transport, 16 per cent from business - but just 17 per cent from domestic fossil fuel use.
Huhne’s statement has failed to satisfy critics of Britain’s green energy policies.
"Our economy is as dangerously hooked on fossil fuels as it was 20 years ago - so emissions are bound to rise as the economy picks up," said Friends of the Earth Executive Director Andy Atkins.
"The government has repeatedly promised to build a low-carbon economy to tackle climate change and insulate us all from yo-yoing fuel prices, but the Treasury refuses to lay the foundations or pay for the bricks."
Responding to the figures on behalf of Greenpeace, the organisation’s chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, said:
"Climate-changing pollution should be falling, not going up – so what these figures show is that the UK is moving in the wrong direction. Politicians can’t blame it on the beginnings of the economic recovery because whilst the economy has grown slowly, carbon emissions have grown faster.
"A struggling economy and rising carbon emissions are exactly the conditions that require significant levels of green investment that can boost the economy, create jobs but simultaneously cut pollution. That’s why it’s worrying that in the last 12 months clean energy investment here has fallen by 70 per cent. Ministers urgently need a plan to turn things around."
The coalition Government's budget on Tuesday was greeted by criticism from the power generating sector, as a new tax on carbon emissions was hailed "a threat to Britain's energy security".
Green lobby groups complained that the price of carbon is still too low, and condemned Chancellor George Osborne's decision to cut fuel duty by 1p per litre.