UK Missing Own Emissions Targets by Wide Margin, Study Shows

  • 2024-03-27

Climate change remains one of the most daunting challenges confronting nations globally. The UK, considered a leader in the fight against climate change, is under scrutiny as recent studies show it is veering off the path to meet its emissions targets. 

The Stark Reality of Emissions Targets

According to DNV, an independent energy expert and assurance provider, the UK is not meeting its near- and long-term emissions targets, potentially compromising global efforts to limit warming to well below 2°C. Despite committing under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 from 1990 levels, only a 55% reduction is anticipated.

By 2050, the annual emissions are projected to reach 125 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, presenting an 85% decrease from 1990 levels rather than the targeted complete eradication, as per DNV's findings. DNV highlighted transport and buildings as key sectors contributing significantly to total annual emissions in 2050.

The British government has delayed the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 to 2035. DNV foresees a substantial number of cars, especially commercial ones, remaining fossil-fuelled and aviation continuing as a major emitter due to the slow adoption of low-carbon fuels.

Around 80% of Britain's primary energy supply comes from fossil fuels, with renewables accounting for 13% and nuclear for 7%. Heavy dependence on fossil fuels is expected to marginally decrease to 71% by 2031 under existing policies. By mid-century, one-third of the primary energy supply is still anticipated to originate from fossil fuels.

Analyses from BBC News reiterate these concerns, suggesting that without significant policy changes and effective implementation, the UK's climate pledges remain unfulfilled.

Dieselgate Scandal

One cannot discuss the UK's emissions struggles without touching on the notorious Dieselgate scandal. The revelation that diesel cars emitted many times more pollutants than claimed shook trust in car manufacturing and regulatory standards.

In the wake of Dieselgate, the UK reassessed its stance on diesel vehicles, acknowledging the impact of their harmful NOx emissions on air quality and public health. This has led to promises of bans on certain pollutive vehicles, but the challenge remains to promptly replace them with cleaner alternatives.

The failure to control emissions from the transport sector is part of the broader issue of missed targets. Despite intentions to transition to electric vehicles and a push for greener transport solutions, there is a palpable need to accelerate these changes.

Accountability for emissions claims has never been more critical. Dieselgate exposed a systemic issue where reported figures did not match real-world emissions. This has reframed discussions around transparency and verifiable metrics, being fundamental components of any environmental commitment.

The Challenges Ahead

One significant issue is the disconnect between policy creation and actual practice. While the UK government has laid out plans and legislation, these frameworks have not been fully translated into effective action. Investments in renewable energy, enforcement of regulations, and public engagement in climate initiatives appear lacking.

On the brighter side, advancements in clean technology offer a beacon of hope. While the predictions are dire, technological innovation could bridge the gap between ambition and reality. The UK needs to capitalise on renewable resources and pioneering environmental technologies to redirect its trajectory.

Bridging the Gap

What can be done to address this divergence between goals and achievements? Experts call for drastic policy enforcement enhancements, green technology funding, and a decisive move away from fossil fuel dependency. Initiatives must not only be declared but also vigorously pursued and monitored. This urgency is echoed by Friends of the Earth, which calls for immediate increased action and investment in renewable energy, sustainable transport, and green infrastructure to get back on track.

In addition to institutional and legal measures, cultivating a community-driven approach helps catalyse broader environmental commitments. From supporting local green initiatives to transitioning to low-emission or electric vehicles, community actions create an enduring ripple effect that underpins regulatory efforts. 

Encouragingly, one area where individuals can tangibly contribute to the fight against excessive emissions is through diesel emission claims. These claims empower consumers to hold auto manufacturers accountable for surpassing legal emission limits or falsely advertising their vehicles' environmental performance. Taking legal recourse through the filing of claims can serve as a powerful complement to governmental and systemic measures. Click here to learn more.


The UK, along with the global community, stands at a crossroads where current actions will define the liveability of our planet for future generations. While the news about missed targets is disheartening, it also serves as a potent call to action.

The UK can hope to meet and perhaps even surpass its climate goals only with transparency, accountability, and rigorous implementation. It is a tall order that cannot afford to be left unfulfilled. In this fight for a sustainable future, every nation, industry, and individual holds a portion of the responsibility. The time for decisive action is not tomorrow - it is now.