Emissions from power generation in Europe fell 4.5% last year, primarily due to a “huge switch” from coal to gas production.
Coal-fired power generation dropped by 12% while gas increased by 20%, according to new analysis by think tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende.
Half of the switch happened in the UK as many coal plants permanently closed and a higher carbon price took effect, they add.
Coal to gas switches also happened in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Greece, partly due to a temporary fall in gas prices last year.
The report states renewables rose only slightly – from 29.2% to 29.6% of the electricity mix – due to poor conditions and slower solar and biomass growth.
However it adds “massive price falls in offshore wind and solar give hope of robust future growth”.
Dave Jones, Analyst at Sandbag, said: “The large switch from dirty coal to gas is welcome news. It helps the climate and more importantly leads to cleaner air for Europe. Further switching away from coal is possible without building new gas pipelines and gas power plants.
“However, the ingredients to make this happen do not yet exist – few old coal plants have announced they are planning to close and gas is still more expensive than coal because of a low carbon price.”