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The United Kingdom made history last year when it became the first major economy to commit to pumping no more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it removes by 2050.
Dozens of countries have since followed its lead to achieve "net zero" emissions, and with three decades to go before the deadline, Britain's progress provides a promising blueprint. Its carbon emissions were 44% below 1990 levels in 2018, with renewable energy now accounting for 33% of its energy mix and coal contributing just over 5%. That is thanks in large part to its success with offshore wind and focus on nuclear energy.
But the Committee on Climate Change, an independent advisory body, warns the country must do more to meet its carbon reduction targets for 2023 to 2027. And climate activists say the government should aim for "net zero" much sooner than 2050.
By far the biggest threat to the United Kingdom's 2050 ambition comes from the way it heats its homes, schools and hospitals. More than 80% of homes are connected to the gas grid, according to Ian Radley, head of gas operations at National Grid. While natural gas emits less carbon than coal, Britain's heavy dependence on the fossil fuel is deemed unsustainable. Heat is responsible for around half of all UK CO2 emissions, according to HyDeploy, a consortium that is currently piloting hydrogen as an alternative to gas.
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