People who live in rural areas produce far more carbon dioxide emissions than their urban West Midlands counterparts, a Government report has revealed.
Latest figures from the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, show that Malvern Hills residents each released 3.2 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere during 2004 through heating and powering their homes. Birmingham residents released just 2.4 tonnes each.
Householders in the Staffordshire Moorlands are the most polluting in the region - emitting 3.4 tonnes of CO2 a year, whereas those living in Walsall and Coventry only released 2.2 tonnes. Average annual UK emissions stand between 2.5 and 2.9 tonnes per person.
Brenda Boardman from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University said the use of different fuels for heating was to blame for most of the extra emissions.
She said: "If you are rural, then you are less likely to be on the natural gas network and more likely to use oil and solid coal for heating, which are more polluting.
"If you live in a detached house, which is more likely if you are in a rural area, you also have more external walls from which heat can be lost compared to terraced houses in the city. This means you will have to use more fuel to keep your home warm."
A Defra spokesman added that insulation and temperature were a factor in making country homes less energy efficient.
He said: "There are many influencing factors that may need to be be taken in to account, such the condition of the house including whether it has insulation, average household size, the income and preferences of householders and, quite importantly, the average temperature in the area.
"Urban areas are often warmer than rural areas and, therefore, houses are easier to heat."
The government study said 48 per cent of household CO2 emissions came from using gas, 41 per cent from electricity and ten per cent from other fuels.
In total, the UK produced 543 million tonnes of CO2 in 2004. The south east was the biggest polluting region emitting 69 million tonnes. Northern Ireland, at 15 million tonnes, produced the least.
The West Midlands pumped 48 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere during 2004 – the equivalent of 9.1 tonnes per person. Of this, 20 million tonnes came from the commercial, industrial and public sectors, 14 million tonnes was from road transport and 13 million tonnes was from the region's homes.
Dr Boardman said there was a range of products rural homeowners could use to reduce their emissions.
She said: "First people have to make sure their houses are energy efficient – such a good insulation and using low-energy light bulbs.
"Then I would suggest swapping coal and oil-powered heating for a wood boiler. They could also consider using solar thermal panels to heat their hot water.
"If someone lives in a very windy area – if they have hill in their house name for example – then they could consider getting a small wind turbine."