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Britain makes carbon neutral progress – but we can go further

Data has revealed Britain is halfway towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 – but there is no room for complacency.

The news came as the Government also set out plans for industry to cut emissions, including wasting less energy and developing low-carbon technologies. It will see the construction industry use more low-carbon technology in public buildings.

Carbon dioxide emissions fell by 13 per cent last year, their lowest level in almost 150 years. Greenhouse gases fell by 51 per cent against the government’s baseline for measuring net zero progress. The main factor in the huge emissions reduction in the past year has been a reduction in traffic and industrial activity during lockdowns. However, it is clear this will increase as lockdown restrictions ease.

Analysis showed 306 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were released in Britain last year. A key factor medium-term factor has been the closure of coal-fired power stations. In 1990 coal supplied 67 per cent of Britain’s energy, compare to 1.6 per cent in 2020.

More details emerged of the Government’s £1bn fund to help industry reduce carbon emissions by two-thirds within 15 years. It includes reducing emissions from public buildings including schools, hospitals, and council buildings, via low carbon heating systems and energy efficient solutions including insultation and LED lighting. The Government said it will support nine green technology projects across the UK. Funded studies will include designing a low-carbon infrastructure using hydrogen and carbon capture, which strips emissions from industrial exhausts.

It is welcome news in the nation’s challenge to become carbon-neutral by 2050, but there is much more to do.

Tara Sheehan, Finance Director at the Sheehan Group, said: “This is encouraging progress and it is great to see the UK demonstrating a commitment to act on climate change.

“But we will need to see year on year investment and broader strategies to become carbon-neutral. The current plan will create new industries, but it is important to make sure we do not push emissions abroad. We now need Government to go a step further and create a bigger scheme that delivers stronger results across the construction industry and supports training and apprenticeships. It should include a stronger demand on all construction projects using low-carbon solutions as standard practice.”

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