A report has emerged purporting the UK’s CO2 footprint having dropped by as much as a third in the last decade.
The analysis comes via CarbonBrief, who is writing that “The UK’s CO2 emissions fell by 2.9% in 2019, according to Carbon Brief analysis. This brings the total reduction to 29% over the past decade since 2010, even as the economy grew by a fifth.”
The drop is said to be in part due to the UK phasing out coal production by 29% last year, with oil and gas use around the same levels. Emissions from the production of coal-fired electricity plants have fallen by 80% over the last decade, with the footprint of gas and oil down 20% and 6% respectively.
The UK’s 2019 figures dropping 2.9% marked the seventh consecutive year of dropping carbon emissions; the longest on record. This means that, astonishingly the UK is currently producing the same emissions as 1888 figures.
The UK is planning to reveal the scope of their declining emissions figures at the upcoming COP26 UN climate summit, to be held in November of this year. Countries around the globe are expected to release their long-term visions for cutting emissions, and may well emulate the policies implemented in the UK.
While the drop has been remarkable, projections from the UK’s government still show that it won’t meet its carbon targets later this decade. “To meet the UK’s carbon budgets, CO2 emissions would need to fall by another 31% by 2030, whereas government projects expect just a 10% cut, based on current policies,” CarbonBrief writes.
The report goes on to state that “the bulk of the reduction in coal use last year came from the power sector, which accounted for 93% of the overall fall in demand for the fuel in 2019. The remainder was from industry.”
“Coal generation fell by close to 60% and accounted for just 2% of UK electricity last year - less than solar. Fossil fuels collectively accounted for a record-low 43% of the total, according to Carbon Brief analysis published at the start of January. Some 54% of electricity generation in the UK is now from low-carbon sources, including 37% from renewables and 20% from wind alone.”
In total, there were 83 days last year that the UK went without any coal power, including a stint lasting more than two weeks straight. The majority of the UK’s remaining plants have been scheduled to stop operation in the next year, with just three operating until the government’s 2024 deadline kicks in.
In terms of oil demand and emissions, these fell by just 1% in 2019, however, demand for natural gas increased for electricity generation as well as for households and businesses. The report also cites changes to the UK’s fleet of vehicles, with more electric vehicles hitting the road than ever before and fewer diesel variants of cars being sold in the aftermath of Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal.
The report goes on to state that “looking at international data up to 2018 - the most recent year available - the UK has seen the fastest decline in CO2 emissions of any major economy. Only the US has seen larger absolute cuts than the UK, in terms of tonnes of CO2 over this period, but its 5% decline is smaller in percentage terms.”