The UK's Carbon Emissions are Declining, But Car Emissions are On the Rise

By Tom Pritchard on at

The UK's carbon emissions are on the decline, to the point where they're at the same level now as they were back in 1890. But while emissions as a whole are on the decline, the amount of carbon being pumped out by cars is actually on the rise.

This data comes from an analysis of government energy usage by Carbon Brief, ahead of the official government figures that are due later this month. According to the data the UK saw a 2.3 per cent decline in CO2 emissions last year, primarily driven by the fact coal power dropped by a whopping 19 per cent. With that Carbon Brief's data shows that coal power now only accounts for 5.3 per cent of the total UK demand, which is down 22 per cent from 1995.

While last year's figures aren't as significant as the 5.8 per cent drop in emissions back in 2016 (helped by a ridiculous 58 per cent decline in coal-based energy), it's still an important step.

Unfortunately 2017 also saw an increase in the amount of oil and petroleum-based fuel being burned. While it wasn't enough to offset the decline from distancing ourselves away from coal, last year was the first time average car emissions have risen since 2000. BBC News reports that the motoring industry blames this on the recent backlash against diesel, though environmental groups are blaming it on SUVs and other large petrol-guzzling vehicles.

Britain's CO2 emissions have been falling since 2012, with big changes in both 2014 and 2016, and are currently 38 per cent lower than they were back in 1990.

Leo Hickman, editor of Carbon Brief, told BBC News:

"The data highlights the dramatic impact that the rapid decline of coal-fired power plants is having on the UK's emissions. The drop was not as pronounced as in 2016, but in 2017 coal was joined by a fall in the use of gas due to a milder winter.

However he also had a warning against complacency:

"If the UK is to meet its climate targets over the next few decades, this rate of decline will need to be maintained, even accelerated. Action will need to be focused on the transport and building sectors, where emission reductions remain elusive."

Lower emissions is definitely a good thing, especially from our power stations, but the car thing is a little bit tricky. Cars produce a lot more than CO2 after all, and nothing coming out of those exhaust pipes is particularly good for people. I hope the government will get its act together, but based on everything else that's happened that doesn't seem likely. [Carbon Brief via BBC News]


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