Emissions to Air

In 2001, total emissions to air generated by activities in the South West were over 27 million tonnes. Carbon dioxide (CO2), at 26.6 million tonnes was by far the largest gas emitted (98% of total emissions to air). Table 18 provides a breakdown of emissions to air in the South West. Based on the South West's total emissions figure, it was calculated that 23.4 million tonnes of oxygen would have been required during the combustion of fuels consumed.

Table 18
Emissions to air generated in the South West, by type, in 2001
Emission type Tonnes % of total emissions
Total emissions to air 27,213,823 100%
of which…  
Carbon Dioxide (CO2 ) 26,617,685 98%
Carbon Monoxide (CO) 291,399 1%
Volotile Organic Compounds (VOC) 110,455 0.4%
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) 109,270 0.4%
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) 42,720 0.2%
Ammonia (NH3) 22,608 0.1%
Particles (PM10) 11,900 0.04%
Hydrogen Chloride (HCl) 6,136 0.02%
Benzene 1,179 0.004%
1,3-Butadiene 349 0.001%
Heavy metals 122 0.0004%
Sources: Biffa, 1997; Dore et al., 2003 and University of Plymouth, 2003

45% of emissions were from general road transport, while domestic energy use was responsible for only 4% of emissions in the South West. Table 19 presents emissions to air in the South West by source.

Table 19
Emissions to air generated in the South West, by source, in 2001
Source Tonnes % of total emissions
Total emissions to air 27,213,823 100%
of which…  
Road transport 12,246,220 45%
Agriculture 1,904,968 7%
Domestic 1,088,553 4%
Landfill 3,265,659 12%
Other industry 4,082,073 15%
Other sources 4,626,350 17%
Sources: Biffa, 1997; Dore et al., 2003 and University of Plymouth, 2003

Embodied CO2 emissions from consumption vs production

There are two fundamental ways of accounting for carbon emissions. One is to account all the emissions produced within a specific geographical area (production); the other is to account all those emissions, caused directly or indirectly, from the consumption of those living within a specified geographical area. In the latter case all life cycle emissions are accounted regardless of where they occur.

So, for example, if someone living in the South West flies out from Heathrow for a holiday, the impact of the flight would not be included in a South West production analysis (the airport is elsewhere) but would be included in a South West consumption study.

The Kyoto Protocol works on the production principle whereas Ecological Footprint Analysis measures consumption. For the South West in 2001, 'production' CO2 emissions were calculated as 26.6 million tonnes (5.4 tonnes per person) and the 'consumption' CO2 emissions were calculated as 56.6 million tonnes (11.6 tonnes per person). These were associated with a variety of activities as shown in Table 20. The difference is largely made up by net imports into the region of power, goods and services. This illustrates the reliance of the South West (and indeed the UK) on carbon budgets elsewhere and the effect of exporting production of goods especially in energy intensive industries.

Table 20
Consumption-based CO2 emissions for the South West, in 2001 (kg of CO2 per capita)
Total 11,553
Nourishment 555
of which…  
plant 228
animal 327
Shelter 2,665
of which…  
Domestic electricity 1,338
Domestic natural gas & LPG 1,039
Domestic oil 161
Domestic coal 128
Renewables (excl. wood) 0
Other domestic 0
Mobility 1,815
of which…  
car 1,570
bus & coach 18
rail, tram, metro etc. 33
waterborne 56
air travel 126
motorbikes/scooters 12
Goods 4,442
of which…  
landfilled 4,141
recycled/composted/other 301
Services 954
Construction 1,122
Note: Nourishment relates only to agriculture and excludes CO2 emissions relating to food packaging, processing or distribution (which are included in 'Goods').
Note: The calculations for goods assume the embodied energy and associated life cycle emissions for each kg of municipal waste to be 9.7kg CO2 per kg (landfilled) and 3.9kg CO2 per kg (diverted waste). The former figure is based on national UK averages including net imported materials.
Note: Freight is included in 'Goods'.
Source: Best Foot Forward Regional Stepwise™ model

Resource eco-efficiency in the South West

The concept of eco-efficiency has traditionally been applied at a product or company level. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development described eco-efficiency as '…progressively reducing ecological impacts and resource intensity throughout the life cycle, to a level at least in line with the earth's estimated carrying capacity' (WBCSD, 1999).

Eco-efficiency can be calculated by dividing total waste in the economy by all resources consumed. The percentage outcome is then subtracted from 100% to give the eco-efficiency (intended products). For the South West, total waste build-up was calculated at 20.3 million tonnes, while resource consumption was 48 million tonnes (excluding water and energy consumption*).

Using these principles, the South West's eco-efficiency was calculated at 58%. This means that for every tonne of product consumed in the South West, 58% is usable while 42% is wasted. This is slightly more efficient than the average UK eco-efficiency, 52%.

Figure 9 presents a comparison of the South West's eco-efficiency rate with other regions.

Figure 9
A comparison of the South West's resource eco-efficiency with other regions


Note: Finished products are effectively 'retailed' products, as opposed to waste.

Sources: BFF, 2002 & 2004 and BFF & Imperial College, 2000

Another method for calculating eco-efficiency

According to sustainability consultants Natural Logic, there are three key sustainability indicators, also referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPI). One of these indicators 'product to non-product ratio' (P2NP), also provides an effective method for calculating eco-efficiency in the South West, as illustrated below:

( P / ( P + NPO ) ) = P2NP


( 27.9* / ( 27.9 + 20.3 + 0.4 + 37.5 + 27.2 + 23.4 ) = 20% eco-efficiency


  • All figures in equation are million tonnes, and totals may differ due to rounding.
  • P = Finished or intended product (27.9 million tonnes)
  • NPO = Non-product or unintended products (108,886 million tonnes).
  • Solid waste: 20.3 million tonnes
  • Agricultural waste: 0.4 million tonnes.
  • Hidden material flows: 37.5 million tonnes.
  • Emissions to air: 27.2 million tonnes.
  • Oxygen: 23.4 million tonnes.

The main difference between the P2NP method, and the first method illustrated, is that the first method only uses waste in its calculation, while P2NP uses 'un-intended' products, which includes hidden flows, agricultural waste, CO2 emissions and oxygen. This method is therefore a more holistic approach to eco-efficiency, highlighting direct and indirect environmental impacts. Using this technique the South West's 'product to non-product ratio' (P2NP) was calculated to be 20% product to 80% non-product. This of course is significantly lower then the 58% eco-efficiency calculated earlier, but can be explained by the inclusion of hidden flows and emissions. In comparison, the US has a P2NP ratio of 6% product to 94% non-product. (Natural Logic, 2004).

* Energy and water consumption data was excluded for two reasons: 1) To be able to compare these findings with those reported in other Best Foot Forward studies of this kind, and 2) Energy was excluded because it is already included in raw materials, such as oil extraction, which is then used as energy (if it was included, this would be double counting). Water was excluded because water entering a region will leave (evaporation or waste) in the same quantities, therefore the eco-efficiency calculation would not be affected if water was included or not.