EMISSIONS of CO2 in the UK have fallen to their lowest level since 1894 – save for the drops during the 1920s caused by industrial strikes – and has been driven by a 52% fall in coal use from 2015.
An analysis by news site Carbon Brief finds that CO2 emissions in 2016 were around 381m t of CO2, down 5.8% on 2015.
“Outside the 1920s general strikes, this would be the lowest level since 1894, when the Manchester ship canal opened, Nicholas II became Tsar of Russia and Karl Benz patented his gasoline-powered car,” Carbon Brief reports.
With coal use down by more than half year-on-year, CO2 emissions from the fuel are down 50% to around 37m t, though this is partially offset by a 1.6% rise in CO2 emissions from oil and a 12.5% increase from gas.
UK coal demand has been pushed down by cheaper gas prices, the expansion of renewables, home and business energy efficiency measures, and the closure of the Redcar Steelworks in late 2015, Carbon Brief reports. The most consequential factor is likely to be the UK’s carbon tax which doubled to £18/t of CO2 in 2015.
Three UK coal-fired power plants closed last year – Longannet in Fife, Ferrybridge C in West Yorkshire, and Rugely in Staffordshire.
“On Wednesday, chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget is expected to set out the future path of the tax, which will have wide-ranging reverberations on planned coal phase out, the cost of low-carbon power subsidies and beyond. The steel industry has long lobbied against the tax, despite being shielded from 85% of its cost,” Carbon Brief explains.
The findings are based on analysis of energy use figures from the Department of Energy, Business and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is set to publish its own estimate on 30 March.
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