Greenhouse gas emissions in the UK have dropped 51% since 1990, pushing it halfway towards its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Analysis was done by Carbon Brief, a website covering climate science and climate policy.
What is Happening?
- The UK’s carbon emissions fell 11% last year, largely due to reduced economic activity as a result of COVID-19. However, Carbon Brief reported that even without this unexpected drop, the UK is still on its way to meet its net-zero carbon emissions goal.
- Last year’s carbon emissions in the UK were at their lowest levels since 1879. Per capita, the nation’s carbon emissions in 2020 were as low as in 1853. The drop in 2020 marks a record eighth consecutive year of reductions in the UK.
- The largest contributor to this fall was from lower oil use, making up around 60% of the overall reduction. Reduced petrol and diesel sales account for around 88% of the fall in UK oil demand last year overall, with a further 4% from the drop in domestic aviation. However, the fall in oil use is expected to reverse this year as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.
- Dropping greenhouse gases in recent decades is largely due to coal being largely abandoned as a source of electricity and the rapid rise of renewable energy in the UK. Last year, for the first time, more electricity was generated from renewables- 43% of power supply, up from 2% in 1990- than from fossil fuels. Much of this came from wind power, which saw an 18% jump in power generation from 2019 to 2020 and now accounts for 25% of the country’s electricity supply.
- Meanwhile, coal is declining. In 1990, coal accounted for two-thirds of UK electricity generation. Now, coal produces just 1.6% of the country’s electricity, and on nearly half the days in 2020, no coal was burned to produce electricity.
- Overall, UK emissions fell from 794 million tons of CO2 equivalent in 1990 to 389 million tons in 2020. Per capita CO2 emissions in the U.K. are now 4.5 tons, which is less than two-thirds the per capita emissions in the U.S. and is 40% lower than per capita emissions in China.
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Source: Carbon Brief