Helped by the closure of coal-fired power plants and simultaneous rollout of several renewable generating facilities, the UK’s carbon emissions have fallen to their lowest level since 1894, a new report from Carbon Brief has shown.
Well, lowest bar a two brief periods in the 20s (in 1921 and 1926) when coal output briefly slumped due to economic slowdown.
Coal output has been plummeting in recent years in the UK, as the plan to fully close down all coal-fired power stations rumbles on and demand falls. The drop in demand is largely down to an ever increasing supply of alternative renewable fuels, made cheaper because of increasing carbon taxes levied on fuels like coal. This, and other factors including cheaper natural gas and the ceasing of operations at Redcar steel plant, meant that coal use fell by more than 50% last year alone, and by almost 75% over the last ten years. 2016 marked the third consecutive year during which coal use was at a record low, and the annual decrease was the largest ever recorded.
Over the course of 2016, UK CO2 emissions fell by 5.8%. Since 1990, the benchmark year used by climate groups and the UN, the emissions have fallen by 36%. This is despite last year’s coal emissions reduction being “partially offset by increased emissions from oil (up 1.6%) and gas (up 12.5%)”, Carbon Brief reported. Overall, emissions from coal fell by 50% last year, down to a total of 37 million tonnes of CO2.
Energy use generally has fallen in recent years, and it is from this sector that most of the emissions reduction has come of late. Dr Simon Evans, policy editor at Carbon brief, made sure to point out that while the positive news about coal use and related emissions reduction is good, it should not be taken as cause for complacency.
He said: “Almost all the progress in recent years is down to the power sector. There’s been no progress or even regression on emissions from heat and transport, particularly transport.
“We won’t meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets unless more progress is made on heat and transport.”
He added: “There’s maybe some optimism that electric cars are getting cheaper more quickly than we expected and the Government appears to be relatively positive about the potential of carmakers in the UK to get involved in that.”