UK's progress on carbon cutting starts to slow
Published: 05 Mar 2019

The Government has been warned against complacency on climate change action after figures showed a slowdown in the rate of Britain's carbon emission cuts.

Emissions dropped for the sixth year running in 2018, to 361m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent.

But there are signs the country's recent period of rapid progress is drawing to a close. The estimated 1.5% decline last year was considerably smaller than the 3.2% fall in 2017 and the 8.7% drop in 2014.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, commented "the Government are wrong to be complacent about the UK's falling emissions when we know that winning slowly on climate change is the same as losing".

Carbon Brief, a website which estimates emissions from an analysis of Government energy data, concluded that the decline of coal power over the past decade accounted for three-quarters of CO2 reductions over that period.

Policy editor at Carbon Brief, Simon Evans said "the lion's share of recent CO2 reductions have been due to falling coal use".

Nevertheless he noted that now the coal power sector has driven most of the UK's recent emissions cuts, other sectors have either stalled or became worse.

The Carbon Brief figures show oil and gas use, primarily used for vehicles, power and heating, have barely changed over the past few years. Transport has become the biggest single polluting sector, overtaking energy.

Evans said "the UK will not be able to meet its legally-binding climate goals in future without progress across all fuels and sectors".

The Committee on Climate Change recently said that emissions have begun to increase in some sectors, such as construction.

Experts say future emission cuts would not be necessarily more costly, but would be politically harder. Michael Grubb, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at University College London commented that more co-ordination of Government efforts is required.

"I don't see higher costs, but tougher lobbying and co-ordination problems which can't easily be tackled through economic instruments or auctions [as seen in the power sector]".

The official emission figures will be published by the Government later in March.