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Emissions in the UK - Statistics & Facts

In the mid-eighteenth century the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to industrialize, kick starting the industrial revolution. For many years, the UK accounted for the vast majority of anthropogenic CO2 emissions produced worldwide. As of 2019, the UK has emitted more than 74 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions since 1750, which represents roughly five percent of total CO2 emissions ever produced worldwide.

Emissions in the UK are falling

Despite its historical contributions to global emissions, the UK has been reducing its annual greenhouse gas levels for a number of years now in a bid to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In fact, UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by almost 50 percent compared to 1990 levels, dropping to an estimated 414 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020. 2020 experienced significant emission reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on industrial activities and travel, falling by nine percent compared to 2019 levels. This reduction means the UK is now halfway to reaching its 2050 target of net zero emissions.

While COVID-19 had a major impact on emissions in 2020, the overall driving factor for the decline in emissions in the UK is the transition from coal – the most polluting fossil fuel - as an energy source to renewable technologies and natural gas. Coal once fueled the country, but its share in the UK electricity generation mix has fallen considerably in recent years, and in 2020 Great Britain went a record four months without burning coal to generate electricity. This was the longest period without relying on coal since the industrial revolution. The decline in energy supply emissions in recent decades has seen the energy supply sector go from the main source of emissions in the UK to the second biggest, dropping below the transportation sector. Transportation now accounts for approximately 27 percent of UK greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has achieved a greater reduction in carbon dioxide emissions than many other countries over the past three decades, and this trend is set to continue.

Air pollution in the UK

Much like greenhouse gas emissions, emission levels of air pollutants such as PM2.5 particulate matter have been steadily declining in the UK. However, air pollution is still a major concern and poses many health risks, cutting thousands of lives short in the UK every year. PM2.5 is one of the most concerning air pollutants. These fine particles can get into blood streams and penetrate deep into the lung. Manufacturing industries, construction, and road transport are major sources of particle pollution, but presently the main cause of PM2.5 emissions in the UK is domestic wood burning. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is another hazardous pollutant released by fuel combustion, especially from road vehicles. During 2020, transportation was heavily restricted due to lockdowns, resulting in dramatic NO2 reductions across the UK. In 2020, the UK government announced that it would move forward with a plan to ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030.

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Emissions in the UK

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Emissions in the UK - Statistics & Facts

In the mid-eighteenth century the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to industrialize, kick starting the industrial revolution. For many years, the UK accounted for the vast majority of anthropogenic CO2 emissions produced worldwide. As of 2019, the UK has emitted more than 74 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions since 1750, which represents roughly five percent of total CO2 emissions ever produced worldwide.

Emissions in the UK are falling

Despite its historical contributions to global emissions, the UK has been reducing its annual greenhouse gas levels for a number of years now in a bid to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In fact, UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by almost 50 percent compared to 1990 levels, dropping to an estimated 414 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020. 2020 experienced significant emission reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on industrial activities and travel, falling by nine percent compared to 2019 levels. This reduction means the UK is now halfway to reaching its 2050 target of net zero emissions.

While COVID-19 had a major impact on emissions in 2020, the overall driving factor for the decline in emissions in the UK is the transition from coal – the most polluting fossil fuel - as an energy source to renewable technologies and natural gas. Coal once fueled the country, but its share in the UK electricity generation mix has fallen considerably in recent years, and in 2020 Great Britain went a record four months without burning coal to generate electricity. This was the longest period without relying on coal since the industrial revolution. The decline in energy supply emissions in recent decades has seen the energy supply sector go from the main source of emissions in the UK to the second biggest, dropping below the transportation sector. Transportation now accounts for approximately 27 percent of UK greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has achieved a greater reduction in carbon dioxide emissions than many other countries over the past three decades, and this trend is set to continue.

Air pollution in the UK

Much like greenhouse gas emissions, emission levels of air pollutants such as PM2.5 particulate matter have been steadily declining in the UK. However, air pollution is still a major concern and poses many health risks, cutting thousands of lives short in the UK every year. PM2.5 is one of the most concerning air pollutants. These fine particles can get into blood streams and penetrate deep into the lung. Manufacturing industries, construction, and road transport are major sources of particle pollution, but presently the main cause of PM2.5 emissions in the UK is domestic wood burning. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is another hazardous pollutant released by fuel combustion, especially from road vehicles. During 2020, transportation was heavily restricted due to lockdowns, resulting in dramatic NO2 reductions across the UK. In 2020, the UK government announced that it would move forward with a plan to ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the {amountStatistics} most important statistics relating to "Emissions in the UK".

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