Lockdown caused emissions to plummet across several consumer categories, as survey suggests some people are now keen to embrace behaviour changes that have led to lower emissions
Carbon emissions from six key consumer spending categories fell by almost a third during the UK's lockdown and remain 14 per cent lower than in 2019, according to a new analysis of Lloyds Bank spending data carried out by the Carbon Trust.
Consumer-related emissions fell by 4.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO₂e) through the height of the national lockdown, the analysis suggests, a drop of 27 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
The Carbon Trust examined carbon footprints across six spending categories: food and drink, fuel, commuting, airlines, electronics stores, and clothing stores.
The unprecedented drop in emissions mirrored the disruption to travel caused by the national lockdown, which saw emisisons from airlines and commuting down 73 per cent. As a result, the report estimates that restricted activity from UK consumers resulted in a combined emissions saving of more than 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
Meanwhile, a reduction in spending on fuel caused a drop in carbon emissions of 41 per cent, representing 2.1 million tonnes less CO2e.
The dramatic fall in travel-related emissions eclipsed a rise in carbon emissions seen in some retail sectors. While clothing stores saw a drop in CO2e of 45 per cent, the food and drink sector actually saw emissions rise by 19 per cent, as shoppers focused spending in supermarkets. Emissions associated with electronic goods also rose by 20 per cent.
While the lockdown led to record falls in carbon emissions, the analysis found that more than half of the emissions reductions experienced during April and May have persisted as lockdown conditions have eased, with carbon emissions by mid-August remaining 14 per cent lower than at the same time the previous year.
"The changes in spending were driven by a global pandemic not by choice, but our analysis of Lloyds Banking Group customer spending does demonstrate the link between the actions we take in our everyday lives and the impact these have on the level of carbon emissions, a major cause of climate change," said Myles McCarthy, director at the Carbon Trust.
"We have an opportunity to build on this increased awareness and create the low carbon businesses and infrastructure to help people reduce their impact on the environment."
A separate poll commissioned by Lloyds suggests that some of the emissions reductions sparked by the lockdown could be here to stay. A third of UK adults said they are more likely to take action to reduce their carbon footprint now than they were before the pandemic, highlighting potential behavioural changes such as avoiding single-use plastic, limiting travel by car, and increasing shopping for local produce.
Just over 40 per cent of respondents said that they now intend to limit travel by car, compared to just 31 per cent before the pandemic, the YouGov survey found.
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