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Residents of Leeds generate up to 106 times their own volume in CO2 emissions every day

The amount of CO2 emissions produced in the UK have fallen over the decade, but we are each generating more than our own volume per year, a study found.

A team from Utility Bidder crunched the numbers to work out just how much CO2 we individually produce and which areas of the country have the highest levels.

Residents of Leeds top the list in terms of individual CO2 production, with each person generation 106 times their own volume in the greenhouse gas every day.

This is 50 per cent more than people living in London where residents generate 70 times their own volume of CO2 on a daily basis, the researchers found.

A team from Utility Bidder crunched the numbers to work out just how much CO2 we individually produce and which areas of the country have the highest levels.

A team from Utility Bidder crunched the numbers to work out just how much CO2 we individually produce and which areas of the country have the highest levels.

Utility Bidder crunched the latest data from the government on CO2 emissions in a bid to make it easier to understand the impact of carbon emissions. 

We all know we have a duty to protect this planet and future generations by reducing our CO2 emissions – and on the face of it, we’re not doing a bad job. 

The drop in average CO2 emissions came even though the economy grew by a fifth.

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels also dropped by a staggering amount – with coal emissions falling by a whopping 80 per cent since 2010.

Last week chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £3bn green investment package to ‘Save money; cut carbon; and create jobs’.

But while we’re constantly bombarded with figures showing how we’re faring, it’s hard to visualise what any of this looks like – or means. 

Business utility comparison company Utility Bidder used the latest data to show how much CO2 the average person in the UK’s biggest 20 cities produces every day. 

Aerial drone photo of the Leeds Kirkgate Market. Residents of Leeds top the list in terms of individual CO2 production, with each person generation 106 times their own volume in the greenhouse gas every day

Aerial drone photo of the Leeds Kirkgate Market. Residents of Leeds top the list in terms of individual CO2 production, with each person generation 106 times their own volume in the greenhouse gas every day

Southampton had the lowest CO2 per person level out of the 20 cities studied by the team

Southampton had the lowest CO2 per person level out of the 20 cities studied by the team

London is relatively low compared to Leeds or Swansea – 93 times each residents volume in CO2 per day – which is surprising, according to the company.

Sunderland, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Newcastle, Hull, Glasgow, Belfast, Northampton, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol, Plymouth and Southampton were also included in the analysis. 

The team says  London was likely so low on the list – a similar CO2 per person rate as Southampton or Plymouth – as people are less likely to use cars on a regular basis.

The average Londoner who takes the tube half the time and walks the other half, will have a smaller carbon footprint of someone in a smaller town city without the same public transport networks.

Leeds and Sunderland have no doubt started a good clean-up act, but they’ve historically been centres for steelworks and other heavy industry, responsible for pumping out huge volumes of environmentally damaging gases.  

While we can pour endlessly over history, what’s more important is observing which cities are currently leading the vanguard to change – and how. 

London is one of the C40 group of cities, each one of which has pledged to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2025. 

UK CITIES RANKED BY AVERAGE CO2 PRODUCTION PER PERSON 
UK CITY  TIMES CO2
Leeds 106
Sunderland 98
Cardiff 98
Edinburgh 96
Swansea 93
Newcastle 93
Hull 87
Glasgow 87
Belfast 87
Northampton 85
Sheffield 83 
Manchester 80
Birmingham 79
Leicester 79
Liverpool 79
Nottingham 76
Bristol 72
Plymouth 72
London 70
Southampton 65
DATA SOURCE: Utility Bidder

There’s more work to do, but London has already reduced its carbon emissions by 39 per cent since their peak in 2000, despite the growth in its population.

The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) came into effect on April, 8 2019, designed to improve air quality and reduce transport emissions further. 

The Greater London Authority also runs the Cleaner Heat Cashback to support small and medium sized businesses switch to renewable energy or connect to a local heat network. But London is far from alone in moving towards a lower-carbon future. 

Birmingham, which saw each person generate 79 times their own volume in CO2 every day, also aims to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent – in its case by 2027.

A step towards this target is the district energy scheme based around a combined heat and power (CHP) system in its revamped New Street station. 

A carbon-savings calculator on site records the levels of CO2 since the system was set up – more than 3,000 tonnes a year. 

Heat generated beyond what’s needed is exported to the Birmingham District Energy Scheme, including John Lewis, Aston University and the National Indoor Arena. 

Bristol saw every resident generate an average of 72 times their own volume in CO2 every day, according to researchers.

Carbon reduction programmes in Birmingham and London look set to be eclipsed by efforts in Bristol – with the city aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030. 

Residents in London are more likely to use public transport or walk which helped push the city lower down the list and saw each person produce a smaller amount of CO2 than over cities

Residents in London are more likely to use public transport or walk which helped push the city lower down the list and saw each person produce a smaller amount of CO2 than over cities

Inspired by the C40 cities work and the IPCC report on climate change, councillors elected to take radical action. 

Green party councillor Carla Denyer said: ‘We can’t wait for the UN or national governments to negotiate when we have just 12 years to act – we have to show how it’s done and commit to ambitious action at the level of cities.’

Another city working to clean up its act is Nottingham, which had a per person average of 76 times their volume in CO2 every day. 

The city has committed to becoming the first ‘net-zero carbon’ city in the UK, after setting a target of 2028 to go carbon neutral. 

Nottingham has already made significant strides to reduce its carbon emissions by investing in renewable energy, a fleet of electric, biogas and retrofitted buses and introducing a workplace parking levy. 

Nottingham also leads the way in installing domestic renewables and pioneering a programme to upgrade homes to make them more energy efficient. 

Revealed: MailOnline dissects the impact greenhouse gases have on the planet – and what is being done to stop air pollution

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040. 

From around 2020, town halls will be allowed to levy extra charges on diesel drivers using the UK’s 81 most polluted routes if air quality fails to improve.

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

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