UK Carbon Emissions Levels Same as in 1890

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Ditching coal has brought the country a long way. Now they have to tackle transportation too.

I've written before about UK carbon emissions falling to Victorian-era levels, but it's a story so good that it's worth repeating. Because Carbon Brief—the folks who prompted these headlines last time—just updated their data for 2017, and it turns out that CO2 emissions fell a further 2.6% last year.

Driving that decarbonization was a further 19% decline in coal use—marking the continuation of a trend that's seen emissions from UK electricity cut in half since 2012. (There are, it should be noted, legitimate questions to be had about biomass replacing coal in this transition.)

Progress so far should be celebrated. But what comes next is an open question, because coal is the low hanging fruit. Now that much of it has been eliminated, Britain will have to tackle areas like transportation, land use and agriculture—not to mention the use of natural gas for electricity and heating too.

And those are likely to be considerably more challenging.

We may celebrate, for example, the improvements in air quality when diesel car sales in England drop, but for the short term at least, a switch back to gasoline/petrol will actually drive up CO2 emissions. Fortunately, from bike infrastructure to plug-in cars, there are signs that Britain is still committed to broader decarbonization.

Here's hoping that the momentum can continue.