Economics – Greenhouse gas intensity of grocery manufacturing level

Date : 07 June 2021

A new edition of the UK’s Environmental Accounts is now available from ONS, with data for the period 1990-2019.

The data shows a radical change in the pattern of national greenhouse gas emissions, with contributions from energy production falling over time, possibly as a result of transition to renewable energy production.

The UK is a global leader in “decarbonisation” of the economy and pursuit of “Net Zero” is now a legal obligation for government.

Contributions from transport have held steady, but this may fall, as new transport technologies become more effective and more affordable.

Households are now the biggest single contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and this does not appear to be changing. Households may be required to make a greater contribution to efforts to manage climate change in the future.

Emissions for UK manufacturing overall appear to be falling, but this may reflect a the changing organisation of supply chains, with more manufacturing activity being transferred overseas, “off-shoring” associated emissions.

Manufacture of groceries (food, drink and tobacco) is harder to “off-shore”. UK emissions from this sector have fallen over the study period, as shown in the first chart.

Actual output of the domestic grocery manufacturing has risen over the same period, suggesting that the sector is becoming more “GHG-efficient” or less “intense”, creating products at a lower environmental cost, as shown in the second chart.

Industry greenhouse gas emissions appear to have risen in recent years, however, and intensity has levelled-off.

This may mean that the “easy wins” have now been achieved and that further gains will be harder – more radical organisational or technical approaches may be needed to regain momentum.

FDF is currently running a project intended to create a “roadmap” for future carbon reduction for grocery manufacturers, to report in Autumn 2021.

Click to enlarge graph

Click to enlarge graph

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