UK Carbon Emissions Are At Their Lowest Since The 19th Century

The drop in coal usage is partly due to increased taxes.

Credit: The Guardian/David Davies

A new carbon emission analysis from the UK has stated that greenhouse gas levels released into the atmosphere have fallen to the same amount as in 1894; which was the year that the first petrol-powered car was patented. The report from the Carbon Brief analysis of the Department of Energy and the Business and Industrial Strategy shows that the UK’s total emissions have fallen by 5.8% in 2016, which is a record-breaking 52% drop in the use of coal. According to reports, the drop in CO2 emissions amounted to 381 million tons, which puts the UK’s carbon pollution at its lowest level since 1894, except during the coal mining disputes during the 1920s.

These carbon emissions for 2016 are around 36% below the reference year of 1990, which is what the legal targets to cut climate pollution are measured against. The emissions of carbon dioxide created from coal fell by 50% in 2016, after the use of fossil fuels dropped by 52%, which is a further drop from 2015. This analysis shows that the overall use of coal has fallen by 74% in the space of just a decade. The main reasons for the rapid decline in the demand for coal in the UK is largely down an increase on a carbon tax of 100% in 2015 to £18 per ton of CO2, cheaper gas expansion of renewable fuels and the closure of Redcar steelworks in late 2015, according to reports. Due to the drop in demand, three coal-fired power stations which include Longannet in Fife, Ferrybridge C in West Yorkshire, and Rugeley in Staffordshire, all closed in 2016. In addition to this, wind farms produced more energy than coal in the UK for the first time last year.

Credit: Good News Network

However, to compensate for the decline in coal emissions, in 2016 carbon output from gas rose by 12.5% due to an increased use of fuel to generate electricity. Despite this increase, the figures for gas still remains well below the highs that were seen in the 2000s. The use of gas in homes and businesses for heating has been in constant decline for the past 10 years, which is largely due to more insulation and efficient boilers, however, the rate of progress has now stalled. Emissions from oil suffered a small increase of 1.6% due to low oil prices and economic growth, which then led to more miles being driven around the UK, according to the results of the assessment by Carbon Brief.

The analysis of the UK’s emissions displaying new energy figures comes from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and arrives just before the department’s own estimates for the UK carbon dioxide emissions, which is due to be published at the end of this month. The government has also pledged that all of the UK’s coal-fired power stations will be closed by 2025. The speed at which the use of coal is decreasing means that the UK is currently working towards reaching its targets of reducing the usage of the fossil fuel that is being blamed for climate change even faster than expected, thereby cutting more carbon pollution.

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