Five biggest polluters in UK produce more CO2 than all motorists combined

Five companies in Britain produce more carbon dioxide pollution together than all the motorists on UK roads combined, according to new figures which reveal heavy industry's contribution to climate change.

A league table compiled by the Guardian identifies EON UK, the electricity generator that owns Powergen, as Britain's biggest corporate emitter of greenhouse gases. It produced 26.4m tonnes of carbon dioxide last year - slightly more than Croatia did. The figures, which have prompted new calls for tighter restrictions on corporate pollution, show that efforts by individuals and households to cut their carbon footprints will make little difference unless accompanied by greater action by industry.

The top five companies (EON UK, RWE Npower, Drax, Corus, and EDF) produced between them more than 100m tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005. On average, the country's 26m private cars produce 91m tonnes each year.

The UK is involved in the first phase of a Europe-wide scheme intended to tackle climate change by capping the amount of carbon the heaviest polluters can emit. Companies failing to hit a target - applying to emissions from onsite activities such as combustion only - must buy permits to pollute from rivals that have successfully cut emissions. However, hundreds of UK companies are excluded from the scheme - because they are not classed as big polluters or because they participate in a parallel system run by the government. Figures from these firms have been obtained by the Guardian under freedom of information laws. They show that dozens of household names produce more than many small countries.

New figures reveal scale of industry's impact on climate (The Guardian, 16 May 2006)