UK emissions drop by 29 per cent since 2010, further falls more difficult

3rd March 2020 | Commercial Energy

The UK’s CO2 emissions have dropped by 29 per cent in the last decade, according to Carbon Brief, even though the economy grew by a fifth during this time. The climate website said that last year’s reduction came primarily from a 29 per cent reduction in coal use, which has been consistently falling over the last decade.

In September 2019, the amount of coal burned in the country fell to the lowest levels since the Industrial Revolution, only contributing 2 per cent of electricity generation. Other fossil fuels only saw minimal declines, with oil dropping 0.9 per cent and gas just 0.1 per cent. Although these falls are small, they occurred despite the fact that road traffic rose by 0.8 per cent. This was largely attributed to an increase in electric car ownership, which surged towards the end of the year.


Carbon emissions fell for the seventh year in a row in 2019, the longest consecutive period in history for the UK. Last year’s 2.9 per cent drop is a slight increase on the 2.5 per cent in 2018, a figure that climate campaigners at the time said was not enough for the UK to meet its legally binding targets as set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Excluding years with general strikes, pollution is at its lowest level since 1888. The biggest contributor to falling emissions over the decade has been improvement in energy intensity – the amount of energy needed for each unit of economic output – which reflects how energy efficiency has improved. To meet the UK’s carbon budgets, CO2 emissions would need to fall by another 31 per cent by 2030 and government projections expect just a 10 per cent cut based on current policies.

Furthermore, with coal now representing only a small proportion of the UK’s energy mix, there is not very limited scope to make further cuts so carbon savings will need to be found elsewhere.

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