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Carbon emissions in the UK have fallen below 1891 levels

Dirty business.
Dirty business.
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate and emerging industries editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The UK dug up its ample coal deposits to fire the Industrial Revolution and a global empire. But the reign of coal is over. Coal power plants in the UK are due to be phased out entirely by 2025, and the effort to meet that goal has helped drive down UK carbon emissions every year since 2012 (with natural gas taking up much of the slack in terms of energy production)

The climate news site Carbon Brief analyzed data from newly released UK government data showing energy use, and found that, today, carbon-dioxide emissions are as low as they were in 1890, the year London built the world’s first deepest underground railway (known today as the Tube). The only other years since then that emissions have dipped so low were during miner strikes in 1893 and 1921 and the 1926 general strike.

The greatest contributor of historical emissions, coal, is declining sharply in the UK. Last year, consumption was 93% below its 1956 peak of 221 million metric tons. Yet that alone will not be enough; the UK is still far from its target to reduce CO2 emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Today, the country is at just 38% below 1990 levels. Future emission reductions must come from switching utilities to renewable energy sources, and weaning the transportation sector off oil.

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