2020 SEPA data shows impact of COVID-19 on Scottish emissions

fossil fuel emissions

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published its Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) data for 2020 following a cyber-attack in December 2020.

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 which provides information for policy makers, academics and the public about the pressure Scottish industry puts on the environment through pollutant emissions. SPRI does not assess the compliance of the facilities or the health and environmental impact of the releases.

The latest data reveals greenhouse gas emissions fell by 6% between 2019 and 2020. This reduction continues the decreasing trend seen over the last 13 years, with an overall drop of around 60% since 2007.

Note: change values given are based on raw figures as used in the Statistic; remainder of table gives rounded totals.

Impact of COVID-19
Around a third of the sites that report pollutant emissions to SPRI each year noted a significant difference in their 2020 data compared to 2019. This is a similar proportion to previous years.

However, unlike past datasets, more than 30 sites from across multiple sectors mentioned the coronavirus pandemic as having an impact on their emissions. Reasons for this may include temporary site closures due to restrictions and a change to how data is reported. Production levels also shifted during the pandemic. 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, while an increase was recorded at others where there was involvement in manufacturing medical supplies.

An example of this is at Semefab Ltd in Glenrothes where a 30% increase in the sulphur hexafluoride greenhouse gas was reported in 2020 due to production of sensors used in covid detection and treatment. The manufacturer developed more than 12 million forehead temperature guns, as well as components for ventilators and isolation rooms in hospitals.

Jo Green, acting Chief Executive of SEPA, said:

“The Scottish Pollution Release Inventory provides an important insight into Scotland’s journey towards a net zero society. This latest 2020 dataset from SEPA, recovered and now released following the cyber-attack, reflects the realism both of the healthcare pandemic and of an economy in transition.

“More than that, the data reflects both the significant progress we’ve made as a nation to date and the progress we all still need to make on a just transition, including Scottish business.”