According to the most recent government statistics, the UK’s 63 largest towns and cities – defined here as built-up urban areas with 135,000 or more people – account for almost half of all of the country’s carbon dioxide (or CO2) emissions.

London alone makes up 11% of the total.

But are these headline stats masking a more nuanced picture about the role of cities as contributors to climate change?

If we look at carbon emissions on a per resident basis, it could be that life in smaller towns, villages and the countryside has a greater impact.

The European Commission calculates UK emissions at 5.7 tonnes per person. That ranks the UK as one of the lowest carbon emitters per person among major economies. The US produces 15.7 tonnes per resident, while China – despite being the world’s largest CO2 polluter – emits a mid-range 7.7 tonnes per person.

UK government statistics for 2017 place the average slightly lower, at 5.3 tonnes per head.

All but 10 of our 63 largest towns and cities emit below that average, with Ipswich coming out as the greenest major town in the UK from a climate perspective. It emits three tonnes of CO2 for every resident.

Even London, despite valid worries about air quality, has the ninth-lowest carbon emissions per resident at 3.6 tonnes per person.

Meanwhile, energy-intensive steel and chemicals industries contribute to the Swansea area – including Neath Port Talbot – and Middlesbrough (combined with Stockton, and Redcar and Cleveland) having the highest carbon emissions per person in the UK, at 22.4 and 12.1 tonnes per head respectively.

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