The UK is leading other developed nations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as growing its economy, new research has found.
A report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that in the quarter century since the signing of the United Nations Climate Convention at the Rio Earth Summit, Britons have become richer, on average, than citizens of any other G7 nation. At the same time, the UK has reduced its per capita carbon footprint further than any other G7 nation.
The ECIU said the findings demolish the argument that action to tackle climate change comes at the expense of economic growth.
“It’s really time to slay once and for all the old canard that cutting carbon emissions means economic harm,” said Richard Black, director of the ECIU. “As this report shows, if you have consistent policymaking and cross-party consensus, it’s perfectly possible to get richer and cleaner at the same time.”
In 2014, the most recent year for which comparable data is available, UK per-capita greenhouse gas emissions were 33% down on 1992. UK per-capita GDP, meanwhile, grew by more than 130% during the same period.
The report found several factors behind the UK’s success, including a switch from coal to gas for electricity, energy efficiency schemes cutting demand, and a shift to a more service-based economy.
Black said there were signs that the UK’s success was transferring to the rest of the world. Globally, emissions have been flat for three years while world GDP has grown by 8%; but he warned that this wouldn’t be enough to prevent “dangerous” climate change, which would require emissions to start falling soon.