UK records sixth consecutive year of falling CO2 emissions

CO2 emissions declined in the UK for a sixth consecutive year in 2018, signalling the longest run of reductions since records began back in 1850.


That is according to new analysis of government figures by climate and energy website Carbon Brief, which estimate that emissions reduced by 1.5% last year amid continued declining coal use.

The researchers calculate that emissions stood at 361m tonnes (MtCO2) in 2018 – down by approximately 39% of 1990 levels.

“Outside years with general strikes, this would be the lowest since 1888, when the first-ever Football League match was played and Tower Bridge was being built in London,” the analysis states.

However, the 1.5% emission reduction in 2018 was the smallest recorded over the last six years, suggesting that the recent run of cuts could be coming to an end.

The UK had previously enjoyed particularly large reductions of 8.7% and 5.9% in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Since 2013, almost all of these emission cuts have been due to declining coal use, with only 5% of UK electricity generation in 2018 coming from the energy source – a record low.

The analysis also shows that coal CO2 emissions make up just 7% of the UK total, with this expected to fall even further as all coal-fired power stations are phased out by 2025.

“This means there is limited potential to continue reducing overall UK emissions if coal is the only contributor,” the analysis states.

“Emissions from oil and gas will also have to be cut if the UK is to meet its legally binding carbon targets in future.”

Despite the relatively modest fall in emissions last year, the researchers highlighted how the UK has made cuts faster than any other major economy in the world, even while growing its GDP.


Image credit: Shutterstock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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