Transport emissions are biggest threat to UK’s net zero targets as government pushes ahead with ‘nonsense’ £27billion road building program
Coronavirus lockdowns cut Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions by 9.5% in 2020 from the previous year, according to new official figures – but fears have been raised that the increase transportation pollution threatens net zero targets.
The drop in emissions followed work-from-home and stay-at-home measures which led to a significant drop in emissions from transport, which is the most polluting sector of the economy after the phasing out of electricity generated in the coal.
A report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “More than half of the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions between 2019 and 2020 is due to reductions in transport emissions, which decreased by 19.2% due to the sharp reduction in the use of road transport during the nationwide closures.Despite this decrease, transport remained the most emitting sector, responsible for 24% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the report does not cover the past 12 months, during which the economy has largely reopened and workers have moved much more freely around the country.
There are now major concerns that the government is not taking meaningful action on transport, which could make it difficult to meet its legally binding net zero target.
A study published last week found that the government’s current spending plan, including tax cuts for domestic flights and a £27bn road building programme, will add 38m tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere over the next four years.
Carla Denyer, the co-leader of the Green Party, said Beis’s new figures are “not reassuring”.
“Greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded since 2020 as the government has continued to resist meaningful investment in cleaner transport, renewable energy and better insulated homes,” she said. The Independent.
“Public transport remains inaccessible or unaffordable in most places outside of London. Yet the government is still investing £27billion in building new roads, even though their own climate advisers warn very clearly that this could increase greenhouse gas emissions. This money would be much better spent on public transport, walking and cycling.”
But research has shown how switching to cleaner energy sources has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, with climate-altering gases falling by nearly half (49.7%) between the year reference 1990 and 2020.
2020 marks the midpoint of the 2050 goal to achieve zero global emissions.
In 2020, total UK emissions were estimated at nearly 406 million tonnes, down 9.5% from 448 million tonnes in 2019 and 806 million tonnes in 1990.
But after successful coal phase-out, further decarbonization efforts will require much more effort and intervention.
Kate Blagojevic, climate manager for Greenpeace UK, said The Independent“While any drop in CO2 emissions is welcome, pandemics are not a lasting solution to the climate crisis, and the government urgently needs to up its game.
“Not only do we have all the key technologies needed, but many have been developed to the point where they are more cost-effective than the dirty technology they will replace. We have ambitious high-level targets that have been incorporated into law. have, more or less, done the preparation. But what we don’t have is the time, and what we haven’t seen yet, and what we urgently need, is the delivery.
“We need to see a lot more renewables and storage deployed, along with energy efficiency measures, so we can end our reliance on expensive, dirty gas in our homes and factories, and we need to reduce the industrial meat production. This will reduce emissions and, with the right incentives, create jobs and prosperity. It can be a win-win situation.”
She added: “Government will have to confront the wealthy vested interests that are resisting the changes we need – above all, the fossil fuel lobby.”
A spokesperson for Beis said: “While changes to our society and economy during the pandemic will inevitably have had an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, we continue to make significant progress in reducing emissions on our way to net zero by 2050.
“Moving forward, we’re building on the UK’s track record of decarbonising faster than any other G7 country, doubling down on our plan to build a strong, local renewable energy sector to reduce further Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels.”
The Ministry of Transport has been contacted for further comment.