Consumers cut carbon, with emissions in the West Midlands down 10 per on last year

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New data analysis from Lloyds Banking Group reveals carbon emissions resulting from six key consumer spending categories are 10 per cent 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 25 per cent in the West Midlands between the second and third quarter of the year as spending increased on commuting and travel.

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 findings show 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.

Fuel spend was a key factor behind the increase in carbon emissions as people began travelling again. Between Q2 and Q3, carbon emissions from fuel spend rose 60%, the equivalent of 172,000 tonnes. And an increase in the amount spent on commuting resulted in carbon emissions increasing by 193%, more than 36,000 tonnes of CO2.

As some international borders reopened, carbon emissions from airlines also increased as Britons headed abroad for the summer. Emissions rose 120% from Q2 to Q3, the equivalent of an increase of almost 22,000 tonnes of CO2. Despite this increase, emissions from airlines are still down 58% 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.

With one year to go until COP26, the global summit about climate change and what nations are planning to do to tackle it, new research commissioned by Lloyds Banking Group working with YouGov found that in the last three months there has been a 13 percentage point increase in consumers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint over the next year (now at 46%, up from 33%).

While there has been an increase in airline emissions this quarter, a third (30%) of people said they want to limit their air travel in the year ahead, up from 22% in June. When considering future transport choices, 15% 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 to make smaller, everyday changes in their lives to reduce their carbon footprint. Of those interviewed three quarters (72%) plan to recycle as much as possible, while six in ten (63%) plan to cut spending on single use plastic products in the next year.

Jo Harris, Lloyds Banking Group Ambassador for the Midlands, said: “While this year has been dominated by the significant adjustments we have had to make due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is encouraging to see that tackling climate change remains a priority for those in the West Midlands.

“These findings demonstrate the strong link between economic activity and carbon emissions, therefore its important that we play our part in helping Britain recover as we rebuild the economy without compromising the environment.

“We are committed to working with customers, colleagues, businesses and communities to find ways of collectively making a difference through the pandemic, and beyond.”

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.”