Report examines the impact of COVID-19 on Scottish industry

05 April 2022

Article: 56/1309

On 31 March 2022, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published its Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) data for 2020, following a cyber-attack in December 2020.

The SPRI, which is a publicly accessible electronic database providing information to policy makers, academics and the public about the pressure Scottish industry puts on the environment through pollutant emissions, provides a picture on the number of pollutants released in Scotland from SEPA regulated industrial sites. The 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, with this reduction continuing the decreasing trend seen over the last 13 years, with an overall drop of around 60% since 2007.

In rounded kilogram (kg) totals, the data show that between 2019 and 2020, emissions of:

  • carbon dioxide fell by 6%, from 11,400,000,000 to 10,600,000,000kg
  • methane fell by 3%, from 26,700,000 to 26,000,000kg
  • nitrous oxide fell by 24%, from 96,500 to 73,500kg
  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) rose by 188%, from 1,260 to 3,640kg
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs) rose by 2%, from 3,940 to 4,010kg
  • sulphur hexafluoride rose by 3%, from 221 to 227kg

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, which is in line with 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, with possible reasons including temporary site closures due to restrictions and a change to how data is reported. Production levels also shifted during the pandemic, with a drop in emissions 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.

SEPA also report that the 188% increase in HFCs between 2019 and 2020 can be linked to multiple factors, with regulatory work to investigate the three sites in the chemicals sector reporting HFCs being ongoing. Two food and beverage sites released HFCs in 2020, with both having accidental releases, and both have taken steps to upgrade their refrigeration to a non-F-gas system since 2020.

Source: SEPA, 31 March 2022