Coronavirus: Effects of lockdown could see UK carbon emissions drop by 11% this year

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Analysis by Sia Partners says emissions were 27% below normal levels after lockdown restrictions began to ease.

The effects of lockdown are on course to reduce emissions this year by nearly four times the UK’s target for becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Analysis shared with Sky News shows that if we progress in a linear way, carbon emissions will reduce by 11% this year – a much bigger drop than the 3% target set by the Committee on Climate Change, a group that advises the government.

This projection, from analysis by consulting firm Sia Partners, is based on the assumption that schools and workplaces return to normal by the beginning of October.


                              Coronavirus: Effects of lockdown could see UK carbon emissions drop by 11% this year

The analysis previously found that during the strictest period of the lockdown – 50 days from March to May when people were told to stay at home and only go outdoors for essential purposes – there was a 36% decrease in carbon emissions in the UK.

New figures show that when the government began to ease restrictions, the emissions drop was 27% below normal levels.

The data examines the impact coronavirus has had on the production of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the UK and also includes projections for the rest of the year.

Sia Partners uses a carbon emissions tracker that compares the latest data to the last published government figures.


                              Coronavirus: Effects of lockdown could see UK carbon emissions drop by 11% this year

These projections are dependent on our individual behaviours, such as whether we are confident in using public transport if there is a second peak of the virus or the reinfection rate is particularly high.

In order to meet the government’s pledge for the UK to be carbon neutral by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change says there must be a year on year drop in emissions of 3%.

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Chloe Depigny, senior manager at Sia Partners, said the estimated carbon savings for the year are “really significant”.

“However, there is obviously a fear emissions could bounce back higher and faster,” she said.

“This is what we are seeing already in China, where people have started using private cars instead of public transportation, for example, and where industry has resumed activity very heavily and is now emitting more than normal levels.”

Ms Depigny added that having fewer cars on the roads in the UK during the lockdown has been a big factor in a reduction in emissions.

“So if everyone starts using cars more in the future because we are concerned about health issues around going back to public transport, that is definitely going to be one of the main factors for a rebound,” she said.

Ric Williams, professor in ocean sciences at the University of Liverpool, said: “Behavioural change by itself is welcome but it’s not the complete solution to this problem.

“Even as individuals we can only affect 30% of emissions.

“What this requires is systematic work to change how we use carbon to produce our energy and how we use energy to heat our homes and how we use energy in our transport systems.”

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