Net zero: Britain halfway to hitting 2050 target on carbon emissions

Britain is halfway towards its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, it has emerged as the Prime Minister prepares to mount pressure on other nations to commit to the same target.

Carbon dioxide emissions fell by 13 per cent last year, bringing them to their lowest level in nearly 150 years. Greenhouse gases have also fallen by 51 per cent against the government’s baseline for measuring net zero progress.

A reduction in car traffic and industrial activity during lockdown led to emissions falling at the fastest rate in 30 years.

An analysis of emissions shows 306 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were released in Britain in 2020, the lowest since 1879 apart from 1926 when the general strike saw emissions plummet.

The closure of coal-fired power stations is the largest contributing factor to the long-term decline. In 1990, coal supplied 67 per cent of Britain’s energy compared with just 1.6 per cent last year.

On 180 days last year no coal was burned to generate energy according to the analysis of government records by Carbon Brief, seen by The Times.

The achievement will bolster the Prime Minister’s call for other nations to commit to a “global net zero” pledge within three decades ahead of the Cop26 climate summit the UK is hosting in November.

Mr Johnson told The Times: “We are asking every country to commit to net zero by the middle of the century and will rally as many nations as possible behind the target of 2050.

“We will also ask them to make ambitious commitments to reduce emissions by 2030 to get us there, as the UK has done. The enduring threat of climate change does not need to be our inevitable fate.”

World leaders will be asked to commit to eliminating all fossil fuel subsidies and to funding a £72 billion yearly programme to assist with decarbonising poorer nations.

The pledge which the UK hopes will be signed off on during the November conference requires global agreement to stop building coal-fired power stations and phase out the use of operating ones.

On Wednesday, the business secretary suggested plans for a new coalmine in Cumbria would be blocked by the government.

Kwasi Kwarteng said there are “very compelling reasons” not to open the new mine after the project was called in for review by the Government.

Ministers had originally declined to intervene in the go-ahead for the deep mine near Whitehaven, which would provide coking coal for steel production, claiming it was a “local” decision in the hands of Cumbria County Council.

But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced last week that a public inquiry would take place into the scheme, which environmental campaigners have warned undermines UK efforts to tackle climate change.


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