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Renewable sector continues to grow in UK economy

The latest official assessment of the environment’s contribution to the economy reveals further growth in the ‘green’ sector and increased resource productivity - although there has been a recent decline in spending on environmental protection in relation to the improving economy. 

The UK Environmental Accounts 2015 from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the green economy contributed 357,200 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in 2012, an increase of 5% (18,000 jobs) since 2010.

The sector producing renewable energy accounted for 7,000 FTE jobs in 2012, up 59% since 2010.

ONS also looked at resource productivity – materials consumed by the UK economy in relation to economic activity – and says it suggests a “decoupling” between resource use and economic growth.

“In 2000, 12.6 tonnes of material resources were consumed per capita. This reduced to 9.2 tonnes in 2013. Increases in the use of recycled materials and in the use of waste for energy purposes have helped to increase resource productivity,” according to a commentary on the data.

The commentary notes that consumption of energy has been falling in recent years, down 14% in 2013 against 2005. Fossil fuels contribute 87% of all energy consumed in 2013 but this is down from 92% in 2008.

Part of the reason is an increase in energy from renewable and waste sources, which accounted for 5.6% of total energy consumed in 2013 compared with 1.2% in 2000.

The Government spent an estimated £14.4bn on environmental protection in 2013, 0.8% of the gross domestic product, with waste management activities accounting for 80.3% of that.

However, the proportionate increase in the waste sector spending has not kept up with the growth in GDP in recent years (see chart above).

Other key points:

  • emissions of greenhouse gases down 23.6% between 1990 and 2013
  • environmental tax revenue (in current prices) was 2.5 times greater in 2014 (£44.6bn) compared with 1993 (£17.6bn)

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