Report: UK needs to more than double carbon reductions to hit 2030 climate target

While praising progress to date

As set out in the fifth carbon budget in 2016, the UK is aiming to reduce CO2 by 57% by 2030, on 1990 levels. In addition, there is a legally binding target to hit net-zero emissions by 2050.

Analysis by Carbon Brief, published today (2 March), found the UK has reduced carbon emissions by 28% over the last decade, with 2019 seeing a 3 per cent reduction.

In the past year alone, Carbon Brief’s analysis shows that coal emissions fell by 28%, while CO2 from the use of gas and oil each fell by less than 1%. This means carbon emissions were 354 million tonnes of CO2 last year.

UK emissions have fallen every year for the past seven years, marking the longest run of continuous reductions on record and bringing the total to its lowest level since 1888.

Source: Carbon Brief

In total, emissions from coal have fallen by 80% since 2010 while those from gas are down 20%, and from oil%.

Carbon Brief says the largest contributor to falling emissions over the past decade has been improvements in energy intensity, which is the amount of energy needed to produce each unit of GDP.

This broadly means the UK has become more energy-efficient, despite the economy growing by almost a fifth in the last decade.

A shift to cleaner fuels, primarily renewable sources of electricity, was cited as the second-largest contributor to the reduction. Together these factors have more than offset the impact of rising population and GDP, the report added.

Speaking to Utility WeekCarbon Brief’s deputy editor Simon Evans said the extent of energy use is an “under-appreciated point”. He also said while the current forecasts are that the government will miss its 2030 reduction targets, “anything is possible”.

Responding to Carbon Brief’s analysis, Energy UK’s interim chief executive Audrey Gallacher said: “That the UK’s carbon emissions have fallen by almost a third over the last decade, to the lowest level since 1888, shows how quickly the energy sector has been moving to low-carbon generation – and as this analysis shows, importantly this transition has been partnered by economic growth.

“But with less than 30 years before the net-zero target, the transformation actually needs to go further and faster than this – not just in power generation but in others areas like heating and transport as well as energy efficiency, which this research shows has made the major contribution to reducing emissions since 2010.

“That’s why the forthcoming budget and [energy] white paper need to show widespread ambition and action across these areas and unleash much more of the innovation and investment that has delivered these results over the last decade.”

Adam John

This article first appeared on Utility Week.

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