Consumers cut carbon with emissions down 12% on 2019

New data analysis from Lloyds Banking Group reveals carbon emissions resulting from six key consumer spending categories are 12% lower at the end of October than they were the year before.

However, the analysis, which was compiled in partnership with the Carbon Trust, also found that emissions rose 26% between the second and third quarter of the year as spending increased on commuting and travel as some people headed back to the office and started to visit family, friends and places.

The analysis considered the impact on carbon emissions resulting from changing consumer behaviour across six spending categories: retail food and drink, fuel, commuting, airlines, electrical stores and clothing stores. The analysis shows again the close connection between how UK consumers choose to spend their money and the resulting impact on the environment, reflecting the broader way the pandemic is changing the way people live their lives.

Commuting and travel drive carbon emissions up

Commuting was the key factor behind the increase in carbon emissions as people began travelling again. Carbon emissions from commuting rose 225% (Q2 to Q3), the equivalent of an increase of almost 500,000 tonnes of CO2.

As some international borders reopened, carbon emissions from airlines also increased as Britons headed abroad for the summer. Emissions rose 118% from Q2 to Q3, the equivalent of an increase of 260,000 tonnes of CO2. Despite this increase, emissions from airlines are still down 60% on 2019 levels.

Emissions rose after national lockdown restrictions were released – but as we head through the last quarter of the year, we can expect further change in carbon emissions as different regional and national restrictions have a further impact in lowering emissions. 

Mini-green revolution as consumers start the road to COP26

With one year to go until COP26, new research commisioned by Lloyds Banking Group working with YouGov found that in the last three months there has been a 10 percentage point increase in consumers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint over the next year (now at 44%, up from 34%).

This figure jumps to 56% for younger generations (18 to 24 year olds), who are also the most likely to want to travel by public transport or walk or cycle where possible (36% and 43% respectively).

While there has been an increase in airline emissions this quarter, a third (32%) of people said they want to limit their air travel in the year ahead, up from 27% in June. When considering future transport choices, over one in eight (12%) are looking to make the switch to a hybrid or electric car in 2021, but only 5% are looking to buy any other electrified mode of transport such as an electric scooter.

There is appetite amongst consumers for them to make smaller, everyday changes in their lives to reduce their carbon footprint. Of those interviewed three quarters (73%) plan to recycle as much as possible, while six in ten (60%) plan to cut spending on single use plastic products in the next year.

Fiona Cannon, Group Sustainable Business Director at Lloyds Banking Group said:

“With just over a year to go before the UK hosts COP26, it’s encouraging to see that tackling climate change remains a priority for the public even in the face of the current challenges we are experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our spending analysis underlines the strong link between economic activity and carbon emissions. We want to help play our role in helping Britian recover to rebuild the economy. But that doesn’t mean we should turn the clock back and return to the same old way of doing things.

“We need to build back better in a way which is both good for the economy and the enviornment. That’s why we are committed to working with customers, colleagues, buisnesses and communities to find ways of collectively making a difference and help the country to build a brighter future as and when lockdown lifts.”

Myles McCarthy, Director at the Carbon Trust, said:

“Our analysis of Lloyds Banking Group customer spending demonstrates 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.

“These changes in 2020 spending have been driven by a global pandemic not by choice. However, with the evidence of growing consumer appetite to reduce their environmental impact and to consider more sustainable choices, some of these emission reductions could become more persistent.”

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