Sustainable Energy

CO2 emissions in UK hit lowest level in almost a century, research claims

Key Points
  • A report published by research group Carbon Brief on Monday said CO2 emissions in the U.K. fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2018.
  • Emissions were at their lowest since 1888, with the exception of three years on record: 1893, 1921 and 1926.
  • However, the organization warned that the British government must act to prevent the end of the emissions decline.
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The U.K.'s carbon emissions fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2018, hitting some of the lowest levels seen since 1888, according to a report published Monday.

The data by research group Carbon Brief claimed 2018's decline marked the longest series of annual emissions reductions on record. However, the 1.5 percent decrease was the smallest in the six-year run, which Carbon Brief said could signal the end of the downturn.

According to the report, the U.K.'s CO2 emissions in 2018 were an estimated 361 million tons — 39 percent lower than they were in 1990. With the exception of three years on record — when mass strikes took place in 1893, 1921 and 1926 — last year's emissions were the nation's lowest since 1888.

The organization's findings were based on an analysis of official data from the British government.

Coal in decline

Since 1990, the U.K. has cut its emissions faster than any other major world economy, Carbon Brief's report claimed. A key driver for the ongoing reduction was reduced coal use, which fell by 16 percent between 2017 and 2018.

According to the report, emissions from coal now make up just 7 percent of the U.K.'s total annual CO2 output, having fallen by around 80 percent over the past six years. This is expected to decline further as power stations fueled by coal continue to close ahead of a 2025 phaseout deadline.

Meanwhile, oil and gas use were flat, the data showed. While emissions generated by gas use were unchanged, emissions from oil increased by 4 percent in 2018.

Simon Evans, deputy editor of Carbon Brief, told CNBC via email: "These latest figures show the U.K. has cut emissions again even as its economy grows. However, there are signs the recent run of reductions could be coming to an end, indicating the U.K. will need to accelerate work in sectors such as construction and transport to meet future targets."