1. Main points

  • The average number of heating degree days in January to March 2022 was 1.3 lower when compared with the same period a year ago as well as the long term mean for the period, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy data.
  • Final energy consumption (excluding non-energy use) rose by 2.4% in October to December 2021 compared with the same period in 2020, reflecting easing coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s most recent quarterly energy statistics.
  • Some 6 in 10 (62%) adults in Great Britain expect rising UK temperatures will directly affect them by 2030, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey in mid-April.
  • Some 23% of large businesses reported to have a climate strategy, 17% have a greenhouse gas emissions target, and 8% monitor climate-related risks, according to the ONS Business Insights and Conditions Survey between 21 March and 3 April.
  • Switching to LED bulbs and adjusting heating and cooling systems were the top two actions taken by all businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, according to the Business Insights and Conditions Survey between 21 March and 3 April.
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2. Providing latest insights on climate change

This is a pilot for a proposed new quarterly release, bringing together statistics and indicators to provide timely climate change insights. Where possible, we set these in the context of the UK’s environmental and natural capital accounts, “satellites” to the national accounts, enabling direct comparison with Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This article has been published alongside our first quarterly estimate of GDP for January to March 2022. Where possible, this article provides statistics for the same time period as the quarterly GDP article, or the most recent period for which data are available.

We present these statistics and indicators using the cross-government climate change statistical framework followed by the prototype UK Climate Change Statistics Portal. The portal brings together climate change related data and statistics to improve coherence, accessibility and comparability, and will look to include the indicators used in this article.

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3. Climate and weather

“Climate change” refers to a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns and average temperatures.

According to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy estimates, the average temperature in January to March 2022 was 6.6 degrees Celsius. When rounded, this is 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than the same period a year earlier (5.3 degrees), and 1.3 degrees higher than the long term mean for the same period of 5.2 degrees.

Heating degree days record the number of degrees the air temperature is below the base temperature of 15.5 degrees Celsius each day. As well as providing insight on recent temperatures relative to long term trends, the measure provides an indication of the energy that would be required to heat a building to the base temperature.

The average number of heating degree days in January to March 2022 is 8.9, which, when rounded, is 1.3 lower than the same period a year earlier (10.2) and 1.3 lower than the long-term mean of 10.3

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4. Greenhouse gas emissions

The The latest physical science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that observed warming of the Earth’s climate is a consequence of emissions from human activity. This activity has increased the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere globally.

There are three key official measures of UK GHG emissions. In 2018, the latest year that all three measures are available, territorial emissions were 463 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e), residence emissions 569 Mt CO2e and footprint (or consumption) emissions 703 Mt CO2e.

The most recent estimate is for territorial emissions, produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Provisional 2021 data suggest an increase of 4.7% on 2020 to 425Mt CO2e. This is 5.2% lower than the equivalent measure in 2019, reflecting the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions on emissions.

Our residence-based emissions cover UK residents and UK-registered business emissions whether they happen in the UK or overseas. Provisional estimates of this measure suggest that emissions fell by approximately 13% between 2019 and 2020 to 481 Mt CO2e. Coronavirus restrictions implemented in the UK in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2020 are likely to be the main driver of the declines in GHG emissions.

The four sectors contributing the most GHG to UK emissions are the same ones as in previous years: consumer expenditure, energy, manufacturing and transport. These four collectively contribute over 70% of total UK GHG emissions. The first quarterly estimate of GDP for Jan to March 2022, published 12 May 2022, provides further insight into output within those sectors.

In 2020, GHG residence-based emissions intensity for the UK fell by 5% on the year to 0.20 thousand tonnes of Co2e per £1 million of gross value added (GVA). This annual reduction of intensity was slightly greater than the average year on year reduction of 4% since 1990. The sector with the largest fall was transport, which dropped by 29%. Usually, a reduction in overall UK greenhouse gas emissions intensity would indicate that the UK is moving towards a greener and more sustainable economy. However, coronavirus restrictions affected economic output in 2020.

Alongside this article, we are publishing an initial methodological article, titled Developing quarterly greenhouse gas emissions accounts, which outlines options for producing quarterly estimates of residence-based UK greenhouse gas emissions. Further progress on this work will be informed by stakeholder and user feedback.

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5. Climate change drivers

A large majority of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced as a result of energy consumption. Primary energy consumption includes use by consumers, fuel used for electricity generation and losses during transformation from one energy source to another.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s most recent quarterly energy statistics, final energy consumption (excluding non-energy use) rose by 2.4% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021 compared with Quarter 4 2020. The easing of coronavirus restrictions were reflected in consumption levels. Transport consumption rose by 18% and industrial consumption rose by 1.4%. Average temperatures in Quarter 4 2021 were 0.6 degrees Celsius warmer than Quarter 4 2020, which contributed to domestic consumption falling by 7.5%. Statistics referenced are not seasonally or temperature adjusted.

Focussing on fuel type, total production was 29.2 million tonnes of oil equivalent in Quarter 4 2021, 7.2% lower than in Quarter 4 2020. Production of all primary fuels fell except for bioenergy and waste, and wind and solar because of growth in capacity.

The relationship between energy consumption and economic activity can be represented by the energy ratio. In Quarter 4 2021, the most recent quarter for which energy consumption and gross domestic product (GDP) data are available, the energy ratio slightly fell. This was driven by GDP increasing on the quarter by more than the increase in energy consumption.

The overall long-term downward trend is likely influenced, at least in part, by improvements in household energy efficiency. This is captured by the median energy efficiency scores for England and Wales. Previous analysis of energy efficiency records up to March 2021 found the median energy efficiency score was 66 in England and 64 in Wales, which is equivalent to an energy performance certificate recording of band D. Flats and maisonettes were the most energy efficient property type in both England and Wales, with a median energy efficiency score of 72, equivalent to band C.

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6. Impacts on society and nature

In October 2021, three-quarters (75%) of adults in Great Britain said they were either very or somewhat worried about the impact of climate change, while around one-fifth (19%) were neither worried nor unworried. These findings from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) for Great Britain are similar to results from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Public Attitudes Tracker (319.5KB), which surveys UK households. In Winter 2021, 85% of people said they were concerned to some degree about climate change.

More recent statistics from the OPN collected between 13 and 24 April shows that over 6 in 10 (62%) of adults in Great Britain think rising UK temperatures will affect them by 2030. Over half (54%) thought they would be affected by reduced access to safe and affordable food. A slightly higher proportion of younger adults, compared with those aged 50 and over, thought each of the impacts they were asked about would affect them. Some 14% of adults thought none of the response options would directly affect them by 2030.

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7. Mitigation (limiting emissions)

Mitigation refers to the actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including the UK Government’s target to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Potential actions include reducing energy consumption and changing to low emission sources of energy, and planting trees that remove carbon dioxide (a key GHG) from the atmosphere.

According to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Public Attitudes Tracker (319.5KB), 91% of the public were aware of the concept of “net zero” in Winter 2021. This is a significant increase from 87% in the Autumn 2021 wave, potentially related to the major UN climate conference (COP26) held in Glasgow in November 2021. The public’s level of knowledge about net zero also increased significantly, with 15% saying they knew “a lot” and 35% who knew “a fair amount” about the concept in Winter 2021. This is compared with 13% who knew “a lot” and 33% who knew “a fair amount” in Autumn 2021.

According to Wave 53 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS), which ran from 21 March to 3 April 2022, approximately 8% of all businesses not permanently stopped trading reported taking at least one strategic action to protect the environment (the climate or nature). The arts, entertainment and recreation industry, human health and social work activities industry and the professional, scientific and technical activities industry reported the highest proportion of businesses to take at least one action, at 11%. Proportions of businesses taking actions varied by size of the business, with higher proportions of businesses with 250 or more employees reporting to take actions compared with smaller businesses.

The two most common were switching to LED bulbs and adjusting heating and cooling systems. These were reported by 29% and 24% of businesses respectively, up from 11% and 10% in late January 2022.

Higher proportions of larger businesses (of at least 100 employees) reported taking actions to reduce emissions compared with smaller businesses. Across all size bands, 17% of businesses reported being not sure and 34% of businesses reported taking no actions to reduce emissions.

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8. Adaptation to climate change

The UK is taking measures to adjust to the changing climate. One key measure is increasing the amount of woodland, as stated on the Natural England website, new woodlands can sequester carbon at a higher rate than other semi-natural habitats. They become a significant carbon store as they age, generally taking 10 to 30 years to become significant sinks of carbon. The capacity for natural habitats to remove carbon or pollutants from the air depends upon the amount and type of vegetation. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) natural capital accounts, the annual value of carbon sequestration in 2019 was £2,110 million in 2020 prices.

As well as being important to climate change mitigation, woodlands also need to be resilient to changes caused by a warming climate, such as new pests and diseases, and changing rain patterns. The Forestry Commission’s research agency, Forest Research, has highlighted the importance of having ”the right tree in the right place for a resilient future”.

According to the most recent Forestry Statistics 2021 (PDF, 319.5K) data, 13,300 hectares of new woodland were created in the UK in the year ending March 2021. Conifers accounted for 55% of the new planting area in the year ending March 2021 with the remaining 45% broadleaves.

The Forestry Commission also publishes headline key performance indicators for England on a quarterly basis. The most recent of these shows that an area of 992 hectares of new woodland was planted in April to December 2021 in England, supported by the UK Government or the Woodland Trust.

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9. Going “Beyond GDP”

Alongside this article, we published an inclusive income workplan on 12 May 2022, outlining plans to bring together a “spectrum” of welfare measures to compile new estimates of “inclusive income”. This will include impacts on nature from economic activity on a comparable basis: flows of benefits from natural capital as well as measures of its creation and depletion. This involves using the UK Natural Capital Accounts, part of the satellite Environmental Accounts, and measures of atmospheric degradation on account of climate change and air pollution, for example.

In addition, alongside our August gross domestic product (GDP) estimates release, we also plan to update the UK’s Measuring National Well-being Dashboard. This provides an overview of the quality of life of those in the UK through the lenses of personal well-being, the environment, the economy, personal finance, health and governance, among others. It provides a rounded view of people’s lives. We will also review the indicators used within the dashboard, engaging with expert users and the public to ensure it continues to provide appropriate metrics as conditions change.

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10. Climate change insights data

Impact of climate change by 2030
Dataset | Released 12 May 2022
Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain: Impact of climate change by 2030. The estimates included here are based on data collected between 13 and 24 April 2022.

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11. Glossary


Mitigation is the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. This includes reducing energy consumption and changing to low emission energy sources.


Adaptation is the response to climate change and the extreme weather that climate change makes more likely. This includes planting different tree species based on expected pests and diseases from higher temperatures and making our homes more resilient to extreme heat and cold weather.

Greenhouse gases

The seven greenhouse gases included in the atmospheric emissions accounts are those covered by the Kyoto Protocol. These are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). These gases contribute to global warming and climate change. Each gas’ potential to cause global warming is assessed in relation to a given weight of CO2, so all greenhouse gas emissions are measured as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

Residence basis

Estimates compiled on a residence basis include data relating to UK residents and UK-registered businesses, regardless of whether they are in the UK or overseas. Data relating to foreign visitors and foreign businesses in the UK are excluded.

Energy Performance Certificate

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are required for all buildings (domestic and non-domestic), when constructed, sold or rented. There are some exemptions, for example buildings used as places of worship. EPCs are valid for 10 years. The EPC records how energy efficient a property is as a building, using an A to G rating scale where A is the most efficient and G is the least efficient. The certificate also lists the potential rating of the building if all the cost-effective measures are installed.

Carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration refers to the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. This includes by trees through photosynthesis.

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12. Data sources and quality

More quality and methodology information on the strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created can be found on the following original data source publication sites:

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13. Future developments

Our pilot article brings together a range of insights on climate change from various sources, using the cross-government statistical framework also used on the prototype UK Climate Change Statistics Portal.

Subject to assessment of impact, we intend for this to become a regularly quarterly article, and as such, we welcome user feedback. Please email environment@ons.gov.uk to share your feedback.

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Contact details for this Article

Ellys Monahan
Telephone: 44 1633 455783