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UK household emissions fell 10% in 2020 as people stayed home during pandemic – ONS

John Giles/PA Wire

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Greenhouse gas emissions generated by UK households dropped by a tenth in 2020 as people stayed home during the pandemic, official figures show.

The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) data reveals that a sharp reduction in personal travel such as commuting to work drove household emissions down by 15 million tonnes between 2019 and 2020.

That is equivalent to 3% of the UK’s total climate pollution in 2019, the figures show.

Although people working from home, on furlough or losing their jobs and staying at home were using more energy to heat their flats and houses, that was more than offset by the drop in household travel emissions.

Overall, the provisional ONS figures, which include parts of the economy that Government estimates do not, including international aviation which fell off sharply during the pandemic, show a 13% fall in greenhouse gases in 2020.

The drop, from around 552 million tonnes in 2019 to 480 million tonnes in 2020, was largely due to the restrictions imposed to tackle the pandemic, with transport overall seeing a 40% fall in emissions during 2020.

Household emissions, which primarily come from heating homes and travelling, including for commuting and leisure purposes, have been the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK since 2015 and account for almost 28% of the UK’s total emissions, the ONS said.

During the pandemic, emissions from households on the move fell by 16 million tonnes to its lowest level since 1995, while greenhouse gases from heating homes more increased by one million tonnes.

Air pollutants known as particulate matter also fell significantly, with dangerous PM2.5, generated from sources such as traffic and which pose a serious risk to health, down 6% across the UK in 2020.

Longer term changes caused by the pandemic, such as an increase in home-working, could affect emissions in the future, the ONS said.

Most people who worked from home during the pandemic – around 85% – think they will work in a more hybrid style in the future, while 4% expect to work entirely from home, according to an opinions and lifestyle survey conducted by the ONS.

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