UK’s carbon emissions continue to fall

In 2018, the nation’s greenhouse gas output dropped for the sixth consecutive year

Pathway to COP26 report

Carbon dioxide emissions

The UK’s carbon dioxide emissions have fallen for the sixth consecutive year in 2018.

That’s according to a new Carbon Brief analysis of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) statistics, which shows this is the longest series of continuous reductions since 1850.

It suggests the estimated 1.5% reduction last year was driven by a reduction in coal generation, down 16% compared to a year earlier.

Oil and gas use remained largely unchanged over the period.

The government statistics show the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions totalled an estimated 361 million tonnes in 2018, around 39% below 1990 levels, primarily as a result of reduced energy demand and a shift to cleaner sources of electricity.

The emissions reduction recorded in 2018 was a relatively modest 1.5%, compared to larger falls of 8.7% in 2014 and 5.9% in 2016.

The Carbon Brief report warns this illustrates how continued reductions cannot be assumed or taken for granted.

The release also highlights how per-capita emissions in the UK fell to 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, the lowest since 1858, when the population was less than half its current level.

This means the UK now ranks well below China, which produces around seven tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita but roughly three times the level in India, which remains at around 1.8 tonnes per person.

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