Accessibility and coherence of UK climate change statistics

27 October 2021
Last updated:
27 October 2021

Climate change statistical landscape

What exactly are climate change statistics?

The UK climate change statistics, data and analysis landscape is broad and complex. Climate change evidence and analysis comes in many different forms, including official statistics produced by government and other public bodies, and scientific/research data and models. Official statistics are a vital part of this landscape, as they are the key data sources against which progress on climate change-related targets are measured.

There is no one definitive set of climate change official statistics, and what is included as climate change statistics means different things to different people. Climate change statistics are much broader than greenhouse gas emissions; they also cover topics as diverse as household energy efficiency, biodiversity, and land use.

There are a number of common global frameworks for climate change statistics. These include the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) framework for climate change-related statistics, which sets out a core set of indicators and statistics on six areas of climate change: climate and weather; emissions (greenhouse gas emissions and their human causes); drivers (human causes of climate change that deal with sources of emissions); impacts (impacts of climate change on human and natural systems); mitigation; and adaptation. There are also a range of UK frameworks that cover climate change statistics and data, including the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) set of adaptation indicators and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair’s (Defra) Outcome Indicator Framework for the 25 Year Environment Plan .

Due to the cross-cutting nature of climate change, the responsibilities for setting UK climate policy and achieving net zero and are spread across a number of UK Government departments including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Defra, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Official statistics on climate change-related topics reflect these responsibilities and are also produced by a number of different government departments.

Climate change policy is a devolved matter. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the powers to set their own climate change policy and publish their own climate change statistics and analysis. However, for many climate change-related topics, including greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency, data are collected in consistent ways across the UK.

The scope of this review

We have taken a broad look at what we consider are the main climate change-related official statistics produced by UK government departments and the devolved governments. These are listed in Annex A.

In doing so, we have focused on two key aspects of current climate change statistics: their accessibility – how they are presented to meet the needs of different types of users and whether users can find the information they need – and their coherence – how well sets of statistics work together to inform the bigger picture.

We first looked at the accessibility and coherence of climate change statistics in 2011. We found that improvements to the statistics were needed in several areas and recommended that the following be developed: a central repository for all climate change data; improved data quality guidance when data are used to support official statistics; a climate change report covering all aspects of the topic for non-specialists; interactive maps to better inform the public; and an intuitive framework that could be used to structure statistics and information about climate change.

Accessibility and coherence of the statistics are as important now as they were ten years ago. Mindful of our previous recommendations, we have looked widely across the statistical landscape, including statistics on drivers, emissions, impacts, mitigation and adaptation. This review was carried out using a mix of desk research and a series of interviews. Due to the focused scope, these interviews targeted organisations producing and using data within government, as opposed to the wider user community or the general public. We also engaged with some organisations outside the official statistics system that hold or use relevant data, including the Met Office and the Climate Change Committee.

We have focused on exploring the following:

  • What producers of climate change statistics have recently done and are currently doing to enhance the accessibility and coherence of their statistics.
  • How statistics producers are working together to achieve improvements to the statistics.

This latter point is particularly important, given that collaboration between statistics producers is essential for achieving coherent statistics.

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