UK Carbon Emissions Down 38% Since 1990

CC BY 2.0. Elias Gayles

Even if you factor in offshoring of jobs and industry, emissions are way, way down.

Often, when we talk about the UK achieving 'Victorian era' emissions levels, folks will point out that manufacturing and heavy industry has increasingly been sent overseas—meaning any cuts in domestic emissions must also be weighed against the emissions embodied in the import of goods.

A new analysis from Carbon Brief, however, suggests that this concern may be overblown. Specifically, the analysis suggests that emissions are now 38% lower than they were in 1990—and while it's true to say that emissions were largely 'offset' by a rise in imports until the mid 2000s, that no longer holds true as embodied emissions in imports have also been falling since 2007. This is extremely positive news. And Carbon Brief credits a mix of much cleaner renewable energy generation—as well as a fall in overall energy demand from industry and private citizens alike—for bringing down emissions so dramatically.

Perhaps even more encouragingly, the analysis also suggests that under a business-as-usual scenario, population growth would have actually resulted in a 25% increase in emissions between 1990 and today.

Of course, the UK is a very specific case where the explosive growth of offshore wind has led to a precipitous decline in coal burning. Whether the same case can as easily be replicated by other countries remains to be seen—but it's worth noting that the UK achieved this with the technologies available at the time. Now that battery storage, electric transportation, and truly massive wind turbines are all becoming a reality, there really are very few excuses why other countries can't do the same.

Are you listening, Germany?