UK greenhouse gas emissions at lowest levels since 1890s

The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to decrease but campaigners have warned that the government isn’t doing enough to tackle climate change.

Figures released today by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveal that the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3% in 2018 from 2017.

This means that the UK’s emissions are now estimated to have decreased by a total of 44% since 1990, with emissions levels in the country at their lowest since the 1890s.

The government has attributed last year’s decrease to the UK using less coal to generate its electricity, instead moving towards gas and renewable sources.

Claire Perry, minister for energy and clean growth, said: ‘We can be proud that we continue to lead the way in reducing emissions while growing our economy.

‘More than half of our electricity comes from low carbon sources thanks to more than £52 billion of government support for renewable projects in the UK since 2010, all part of our modern Industrial Strategy.’

The figures have emerged due to the government’s obligations to report greenhouse gas emissions annually, part of the 2008 Climate Change Act.

The UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were 449 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), with CO2 emissions counting for 364 MtCO2e of this figure.

The largest emissions reductions came from the energy supply and power sector, which decreased its CO2 emissions by 7% since 2017.

Just 5% of the UK’s electricity now comes from coal power, while electricity from low-carbon sources like renewables and nuclear is at a record high of 53%.

Despite the improvements in the energy supply sector, progress in other sectors is proving more stubborn.

The transport sector only reduced its emissions by 3% last year, while the business sector reported a 0% year-on-year reduction.

Environmental campaigners have said that the government must act more rapidly to honour its Paris Agreement commitments.

Mike Childs, head of research at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘We can’t ignore the fact that the energy transition is slowing. All the back-slapping from government on very modest improvements shows that they have not yet grasped the scale and speed of change needed.

‘If we are to avoid climate chaos, we have to do much more: business as usual means more extreme weather, species extinctions and a grim future for young people.’

The organisation has called for an additional £22bn of funding to boost the development of renewable energy, make housing energy-efficient and improve public transport.

It has suggested that the investment could be funded by a new carbon tax targeting the most polluting individuals and businesses.

The government said that it recognised the need to go further to meet its carbon emission reduction targets, hence its recent announcement of other policies such as the Future Homes Standard.