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UK set to miss environmental targets in 2020 and beyond

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It is feared that the UK will miss a range of environmental targets in the early 2020s, including air pollution and recycling, says a joint report by Unearthed and the Financial Times.


Current projections see the UK “substantially” missing both 2020 and 2030 reduction targets for PM2.5 emissions, the tiny particles produced by vehicle emissions, which can cause asthma, respiratory inflammation, and promote cancers.

To improve public health in line with UN guidelines, the levels must reduce by 30 per cent, says the FT. Much of the UK has been in breach of the EU’s legally binding target for nitrogen dioxide levels since 2010.

Levels of tiny particulate matter (PM2.5) produced by cars need to fall by 30 per cent in the next decade to meet UN public health standards. Photograph: iStock

On fossil fuels there are mixed results. UK renewables’ share of electricity generation was at 33 per cent, according to the latest figures. But, overall – including fuel burned to heat homes and power cars – only 11 per cent of the UK’s energy was produced through renewables, well below the EU average of 17.5 per cent.

The report says the government will need to “double its rate of progress” if it is to hit targets.

After a dramatic increase in recycling in the early 2000s, rates in the UK have plateaued in recent years, it says, with the country expected to miss its targets to recycle or reuse half of household waste in 2020. According to the report the recycling rate has “been stuck” at around 45 per cent for the last few years.

Katie Nield, ClientEarth’s UK clean air lawyer told Unearthed. “The UK has been aware of its 2020 targets for over seven years now, so why are ministers still to face up to what is needed to comply with the law and protect people’s health from air pollution?”

“It all seems to be too little too late,” she added.

Read the report here

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