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Scotland's industrial greenhouse gas emissions revealed for 2022 

Date published: 26 September 2023

Environmental data

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published its Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) data for 2022.  

This is a Policy statement and relates to the 2022 pollutant emissions and waste transfers from SEPA-regulated industrial sites Official Statistics published at 9.30am on Tuesday 26 September 2023 and available on SEPA's website.  

  • 2022 greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish industry went up from 2021 – but were still lower than 2019 
  • Global warming potential of greenhouse gas emissions up by 2.7% between 2021 and 2022 
  • The increase is an indication of Scotland’s economic recovery in 2022 
  • Greenhouse gas emissions continue to follow a longer-term downward trend overall
  • Year-to-year variations in emissions reflect a complex interplay of factors, which in this dataset includes economic recovery, production demands and pandemic dynamics.  

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published its Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) data for 2022.  

The statistics show the global warming potential of greenhouse gas emissions, measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) was up 2.7%, 0.30 megatonnes (Mt) CO2e, between 2021 and 2022. 

This rise follows on from two years of reductions which were largely attributed to temporary site closures due to pandemic restrictions and a shift in production levels.  

However, 2022 overall emissions did not return to pre-2020 levels, hinting at a continued long-term downward trend.    

SPRI provides a valuable picture of the amount of pollutants released in Scotland from SEPA-regulated industrial sites. It is a publicly accessible electronic database and aims to provide information for policy makers, academics and the public about the pressure Scottish industry puts on the environment through greenhouse gas emissions.  

SPRI does not assess the compliance of the facilities or the health and environmental impact of the releases. 

Economic recovery 

The increase in greenhouse gas emissions illustrates the “bounce-back” from reduced activity during pandemic restrictions, as well as production demand and economic recovery.  

The year-to-year variations reflect the complex interplay between economic recovery, production demands and pandemic dynamics – and the 2022 figures are a look back to a period when Scotland was in recovery.  

The economy in Scotland contracted by 12% in 2020, as public health restrictions and changing behaviours suppressed activity, with particular falls in the construction, manufacturing, and mining and quarrying industries. In 2021 around a third of sites reporting pollutant emissions in SPRI still noted a significant difference in their 2021 data compared to 2020. The economy as a whole did not recover to pre-Covid levels until the beginning of 2022.  

The 12-month rise is set against a background of reductions overall, with 2022 emissions still lower than the values recorded in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Emissions were 7.6% (0.93 megatonnes CO2e) lower than 2019 figures.  

Carbon dioxide emissions, which dominate the greenhouse gas trend, were up 4.1% (0.41 Mt) on 2021 but still 7.3% (0.83 Mt) lower than 2019. 

Graph with two lines. The top line shows carbon dioxide releases between 2007 and 2022. It drops as the years go on, starting just above 25 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent and dropping to just above ten megatonnes. The second line shows all other greenhouse gas releases. It is much straighter, starting just above two megatonnes in 2007 and ending just below one megatonne in 2022.

 Global warming potential of greenhouse gases reported to SPRI since 2007 (MtCO2e)  

Energy emissions show impact of demand 

The energy sector remains the highest emitter in Scotland, accounting for 44.7% of the overall greenhouse gas emissions. The sector reported a 7.2% increase in emissions in 2022 due to production demand and throughput and was responsible for 47.1% of overall CO2 emissions, 10.7% of methane and 78.3% of Nitrous oxide.  

The largest changes in CO2 emissions were at the Grangemouth refinery, with a 31.6% increase due to higher refinery throughput, and Peterhead Power Station with a 19.9% increase due to commercial requirements for electricity.  

In the 2020 SPRI statistics a drop in emissions was reported at energy sites as a result of fewer people travelling during lockdowns and less demand for transport related fuel. In 2021 lower emissions were largely attributed due to reduced production demand and shutdowns for maintenance. 

While Scotland generated a record amount of renewable electricity in 2022, there was also increased demand for electricity in Scotland during the first six months of 2022, following suppressed figures in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.  

SSE Peterhead, a gas-fired thermal facility, is now the only large-scale thermal power station in Scotland and is designed to respond quickly to market changes, maintaining security of supply.  

Progress towards a circular economy 

Scotland’s progress towards a circular economy is also highlighted in the SPRI statistics with a continued reduction in methane emissions from landfills. The waste sector accounted for 24.8% of overall greenhouse gas emissions - 21.2% of overall carbon dioxide emissions, 85.0% of methane, and 21.7% of nitrous oxide.  

As Scotland reduces, reuses and recycles more than ever before, waste which cannot be recycled is now being diverted from landfill driven by a number of factors, including increased landfill taxes, a marked shift from landfill to incineration, improved recycling rates, upstream management of waste, and the upcoming ban on sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill.  

As a result, methane from landfills, which account for 83.2% of methane emissions, are down 6.1% on 2021, and 12.9% lower than the average of the last five years. There has also been a reduction of 10.6% in carbon dioxide emissions.  

SPRI figures for incineration show a 12.9% increase compared to 2021, but these figures need to be interpreted carefully. Emissions from this sector are small compared to that of the energy sector, and reported carbon dioxide from incinerators includes emissions from large waste wood co-incinerators. As a result, the SPRI statistics are not an accurate comparison for municipal waste management.  

It is also important to note that emissions from landfill are emitted over many years as waste breaks down, while incineration emissions are immediate. As a result, the benefits of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill will be realised over a longer time period.  

SEPA will publish household waste statistics in October, which will include information on the overall impact of Scotland’s waste management system - taking into account reduction, recycling, incineration and landfill. 

Continuing Scotland’s journey

David Pirie, SEPA Executive Director, said:   

“There is a strong relationship between our environment and our economy, and meeting Scotland’s climate targets will require a collective effort from all sectors.  

“SEPA’s annual SPRI data is a very visual demonstration of the progress we’re making as a nation, and is important in helping us understand how changes in our society are impacting on our environment both directly and indirectly - ensuring Scotland can identify priority areas to reduce releases and track progress. 

“As Scotland’s environmental regulator, SEPA’s firm focus remains on ensuring Scottish businesses are compliant with permit conditions designed to protect the environment and supporting innovation. We’ve all got a role to play in tackling climate change and the continued reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish businesses is vital in helping our country reach net zero.”   

Notes to editors

Other statistics 


Access the full 2022 SPRI data set. Data for 2007 onwards are available in SEPA’s SPRI tool on Scotland’s environment web.

Using the tool to compare facilities or sectors provides a general overview of the total amounts of pollutants released or waste transferred. However, direct and causal inferences should not be made because detailed knowledge of processes, installed abatement technologies and other installed emission reduction technologies and practices must be known before this type of analyses can be accurately and definitively performed. Further, the types and amounts of source material, management methods, production patterns, etc. must also be known. 

Carbon dioxide equivalent 

The reduction in emissions in this media release are reported in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to reflect the global warming potential (GWP) of greenhouse gases. The figures reported in the SPRI dataset are total emissions in kilograms.  

SEPA has estimated global warming potential using data on the six main greenhouse gases (GHG) reported to SPRI. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent, accounting for 93% of GHG emissions.   

Each GHG absorbs different levels of energy so has different effects on the earth’s warming. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) enables comparisons between the global warming impacts of different GHGs. This is known as the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).  

 In November 2021, during the Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the global community agreed that greenhouse gas emissions reporting, under the Paris Agreement transparency framework, should use the 100-year GWPs that are specified in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). For this reason, the GPW values used in this year's publication are based on the AR5 GWPs, aligning with the approach used in the Scottish Greenhouse Gas Statistics for 2021.  

SEPA now reports the global warming potential (GWP) of greenhouse gases reported to SPRI since 2017. Our calculations show that the downward trend in GWP is levelling off and that carbon dioxide continues to dominate. 

Global warming potential in carbon dioxide equivalent (kgCO2e) 

Pollutant (kg CO2e) Carbon dioxide Methane Nitrous oxide Hydrofluoro- carbons (HFCs)* Perfluoro- carbons (PFCs)* Sulphur hexafluoride Total greenhouse gases
2007 26,529,142,882 1,981,693,025 78,517,115 20,100,400 81,347,127 13,491,350 28,704,291,899
2008 25,655,320,179 1,591,198,980 83,953,590 21,985,200 133,100,100 24,205,000 27,509,763,049
2009 24,275,752,096 1,437,277,912 56,163,570 10,416,000 48,753,420 4,418,000 25,832,780,998
2010 26,363,490,678 1,341,548,376 66,491,680 18,166,000 17,802,180 4,864,500 27,812,363,414
2011 22,544,490,949 1,348,492,656 49,138,685 26,598,000 31,754,880 6,674,000 24,007,149,170
2012 22,984,923,683 1,341,906,104 51,703,885 32,686,400 34,299,000 7,144,000 24,452,663,072
2013 21,166,495,017 1,319,074,456 42,725,950 46,872,000 47,583,480 5,663,500 22,628,414,403
2014 19,204,496,971 1,195,764,752 45,438,755 22,840,800 93,721,740 4,173,600 20,566,436,618
2015 17,357,137,629 1,067,746,932 42,544,160 30,863,600 45,847,440 1,814,200 18,545,953,961
2016 12,442,518,832 978,884,704 34,753,160 21,501,600 50,065,440 2,998,600 13,530,722,336
2017 11,529,114,447 911,114,792 25,485,050 12,995,200 48,344,940 3,146,650 12,530,201,079
2018 11,849,079,760 779,698,304 23,809,190 43,561,200 49,039,800 2,516,850 12,747,705,104
2019 11,344,380,323 748,574,823 25,583,895 15,661,200 43,789,500 5,181,750 12,183,171,491
2020 10,644,634,306 727,221,578 19,489,722 45,091,360 44,489,577 5,329,800 11,486,256,342
2021 10,101,313,827 689,752,221 11,647,198 94,808,540 51,029,364 5,219,350 10,953,770,500
2022 10,514,223,877 650,547,580 13,137,375 18,215,600 50,662,620 5,400,770 11,252,187,822

* It is currently not possible to reliably convert these parameters to carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) values as we do not formally collect information identifying individual species of hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.  

Total greenhouse gas emissions in kg

In the SPRI dataset online, the total greenhouse gas emissions are reported in kg as follows

GHG (kg) 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Carbon dioxide 11,849,079,760 11,344,380,323 10,644,634,306 10,101,313,827 10,514,223,877
Methane 27,846,368 26,734,815 25,972,199  24,634,008 23,233,842
Nitrous oxide 89,846 96,543 73,546 43,952 49,575
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)  3,513 1,263 3,636 7,646 1,469
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) 4,418 3,945 4,008 4,597 4,564
Sulphur hexafluoride 107 221 227 222 230
Total GHGs 11,877,024,012 11,371,217,110 10,670,687,922 10,126,004,252 10,537,513,557