Britain's greenhouse gas emissions dropped 9% in 2020 amid pandemic

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A cyclist rides past an electric public bus on the day that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan outlined plans to place a levy on the most polluting vehicles in London, Britain, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) - Britain's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell by 8.9% in 2020, largely driven by a slump in economic activity due to measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, provisional government data showed on Thursday.

Government measures over the past year to control the pandemic have at times shut down large parts of the economy, leading to lower power demand and fewer cars on the road.

"This large fall in 2020 is primarily due to the large reduction in the use of road transport during the nationwide lockdowns and the reduction in business activity," the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in a preliminary report.

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GHG emissions were estimated at 414.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020, down from 454.8 million the previous year, the data showed.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the main GHG, were estimated to be 326 million tonnes, 10.7% lower than in 2019.

Britain’s emissions have fallen for the last eight years in a row, and are now 48.8% below 1990 levels, the data showed.

The largest emissions drop came in the transport sector, where carbon dioxide emissions fell by almost 20% year-on-year.

Emissions in the energy sector fell by almost 12%, driven by a reduction in electricity use and also an increase in the amount of electricity coming from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Britain has a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 which will require changes to the way people eat and travel, as well as how electricity is produced.

Greenpeace said the government must focus on longer term measures to see sustained reductions and meet its climate targets.

"It’s important the government does not celebrate this, instead it must ramp up action to genuinely slash emissions in a meaningful way from every sector of society," Greenpeace UK's policy director, Doug Parr said in a statement.

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Reporting By Susanna Twidale

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