THE LATEST FIGURES show there was an increase of 2.7% in the global warming potential of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions between 2021 and 2022.
Measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), Scotland reached 0.30 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2e, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) latest Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) data for 2022.
This rise follows two years of reductions, largely attributed to temporary pandemic site closures and a shift in production levels.
However, 2022’s overall emissions did not return to pre-2020 levels, hinting at a continued long-term downward trend.
The year-to-year variations reflect the complex interplay between economic recovery, production demands and pandemic dynamics, SEPA says.
Scotland’s Industrial Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The economy in Scotland contracted by 12% in 2020, as activity reduced due to pandemic restrictions. There were falls in construction, manufacturing, and mining and quarrying industrial production.
In 2021 around a third of sites reporting pollutant emissions noted a significant difference in their 2021 data compared to 2020. It showed that the Scottish economy as a whole did not recover to pre-Covid levels until the beginning of 2022.
The rise in the 12 months to 2022 is set against a background of reductions overall, with 2022 emissions still lower than the values recorded in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Emissions were 7.6% (0.93 megatonnes CO2e) lower than 2019 figures.
Carbon dioxide emissions, which dominate the greenhouse gas trend, were up 4.1% (0.41 Mt) on 2021 but still 7.3% (0.83 Mt) lower than 2019.
The energy sector remains the highest emitter in Scotland, accounting for 44.7% of overall greenhouse gas emissions. The sector reported a 7.2% increase in emissions in 2022 due to production demand and was responsible for 47.1% of overall CO2 emissions, 10.7% of methane and 78.3% of Nitrous oxide.
The largest changes in CO2 emissions were at the Grangemouth refinery, with a 31.6% increase due to higher refinery throughput, and Peterhead Power Station with a 19.9% increase due to commercial requirements for electricity.
In the 2020 SPRI statistics, a drop in emissions was reported at energy sites as a result of fewer people travelling during lockdowns and less demand for transport related fuel. In 2021 lower emissions were largely attributed due to reduced production demand and shutdowns for maintenance.
While Scotland generated a record amount of renewable electricity in 2022, there was also increased demand for electricity in Scotland during the first six months of 2022.
SSE Peterhead, a gas-fired thermal facility, is now the only large-scale thermal power station in Scotland and is designed to respond quickly to market changes.
Circular Economy Progress
Scotland’s progress towards a circular economy is also highlighted in the SPRI statistics with a continued reduction in methane emissions from landfills. The waste sector accounted for 24.8% of overall greenhouse gas emissions – 21.2% of overall carbon dioxide emissions, 85.0% of methane, and 21.7% of nitrous oxide.
As Scotland reduces, reuses and recycles more than ever before, waste which cannot be recycled is now being diverted from landfill. The diversion is driven by a number of factors, including increased landfill taxes, a shift to incineration, improved recycling rates, upstream management of waste, and the upcoming ban on sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill.
As a result, methane from landfills, which account for 83.2% of methane emissions, are down 6.1% on 2021, and 12.9% lower than the average of the last five years. There has also been a reduction of 10.6% in carbon dioxide emissions.
SPRI figures for incineration show a 12.9% increase compared to 2021, but these figures need to be interpreted carefully, SEPA says. Emissions from this sector are small compared to that of the energy sector, and reported carbon dioxide from incinerators includes emissions from large waste wood co-incinerators. As a result, the SPRI statistics are not an accurate comparison for municipal waste management.
It is also important to note that emissions from landfill are emitted over many years as waste breaks down, while incineration emissions are immediate.
David Pirie, SEPA Executive Director, said: “There is a strong relationship between our environment and our economy, and meeting Scotland’s climate targets will require a collective effort from all sectors.
“SEPA’s annual SPRI data is a very visual demonstration of the progress we’re making as a nation, and is important in helping us understand how changes in our society are impacting on our environment both directly and indirectly – ensuring Scotland can identify priority areas to reduce releases and track progress.
“We’ve all got a role to play in tackling climate change and the continued reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish businesses is vital in helping our country reach net zero.”
SPRI provides a picture of the amount of pollutants released in Scotland from SEPA-regulated industrial sites. It is a freely accessible electronic database providing information for policy makers, academics and the public about Scottish industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.
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