Greenhouse gas emissions fell 6% in 2016, official figures show

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Energy sector emissions were down 19% year on year as coal plants closed or switched to biomass and there was more use of gas
Energy sector emissions were down 19% year on year as coal plants closed or switched to biomass and there was more use of gas
30 March 2017 11:00AM

The UK's greenhouse gas emissions fell 6% in 2016, official figures show.

Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, was down 7% in 2016 on the previous year, largely as a result of less use of coal for electricity generation and the closure of SSI steelworks at Redcar in September 2015.

Energy sector emissions were down 19% year on year as coal plants closed or switched to biomass and there was more use of gas, a less polluting fossil fuel, provisional data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) show.

The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the energy supply sector has fallen by more than half (54%) since 1990, the baseline year for greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall the UK's greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 42% since 1990, and carbon dioxide output is down 37% since then.

In 2016 emissions from business and industrial processes also dropped, but transport, homes and the public sector all saw slight rises.

The transport sector has failed to cut its carbon dioxide emissions since 1990.

Data from Beis also show that the amount of electricity from renewables fell slightly in 2016 to 24.4% of generation, due to lower amounts of wind power.

Low carbon power sources - which include renewables and nuclear - were up slightly in 2016 to account for 45.6% of generation. 

Coal accounted for just 9% of electricity generation in 2016, down from around 23% the year before.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF, said: "It's heartening to see the UK's carbon emissions continue to fall, demonstrating that it's possible to cut emissions and build a productive economy.

"Most of this fall is thanks to a big reduction in the use of coal to generate electricity, but the lack of progress on buildings and transport is deeply worrying.

"The Government's forthcoming plan to reduce emissions, the Clean Growth Plan, will need to propose new policies in these areas as well as confirming its pledge to phase out coal if we are to meet our much-needed climate obligations."

The Government first announced in 2015 its intention to phase out polluting coal-fired power stations by 2025.

Sam Hall, senior researcher at liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue, said: "The Government deserves serious credit for weakening the economics of coal, especially by introducing and maintaining a strong price on carbon.

"It now needs to finish the job and consign unabated coal to history. Rather than waiting until the end of 2025, the remaining coal-fired power stations should be closed by at least 2023 to bring forward investment in new, cleaner capacity."

 

A Beis spokeswoman said: "The UK is making significant progress in reducing harmful carbon emissions while successfully growing the economy.

"Today's provisional figures show we are halfway to meeting our 2050 target for greenhouse gases reduction, with emissions 42% lower today than in 1990."

The UK has a legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050, with a series of five-yearly "carbon budgets" set to ensure the country is on track to meet the goal.

A recent assessment by Beis showed the UK has met the first carbon budget and is set to meet the second and third budgets up to 2022, but on current projections will miss the targets to cut emissions in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets up to 2032.