The climate research firm Carbon Brief has reported that CO2 emissions in the UK fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2018. The estimated fall of 1.5 per cent was driven by falling coal use, which fell by 16 per cent compared to 2017. Oil and gas use were largely unchanged. The report also says that there are signs that the recent run of reductions could be coming to an end, with 2018 seeing the smallest fall in the six-year series.
The UK’s CO2 emissions were an estimated 361 million tonnes CO2 (MtCO2) in 2018, 39 per cent below 1990, the lowest level since 1888. Per-capita emissions in the UK fell to 5.4 tCO2 in 2018, the lowest level since 1858. The UK is aiming for a target of an 80 per cent reduction on 1990 levels by 2050. As part of its efforts to cut emissions, Britain aims to phase out all coal-fired power stations by 2035.
During those six years of continuous cuts in the UK’s CO2 emissions between 2013 and 2018, almost all of the reductions have been due to coal. Overall emissions fell by a fifth (98 MtCO2), with coal accounting for 97 per cent of that total. Coal provides just 7 per cent of the UK’s total CO2 emissions, and this will shrink as coal-fired power stations close. Only 5 per cent of UK electricity generation in 2018 was from coal, a record low. This means that there is limited potential to continue reducing overall UK emissions if coal is the only contributor. Emissions from oil and gas will also have to be cut if the UK is to meet its legally binding carbon targets in future.