Wind turbines and some sheep, UK

2.5 per cent fall in UK’s carbon emissions ‘not enough’, say green groups

Image credit: Jasminelove | Dreamstime

Government figures show that the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.5 per cent in 2018, the sixth consecutive year that this has occurred.

However, environmental group Friends of the Earth said the “small decrease” would not be enough for the UK to meet its legally binding targets as set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The figures also showed a rate of decline from 2017’s 3 per cent and 2016’s 6 per cent to hover around 44 per cent below the 1990 baseline for the UK.

The fall was largely attributed to a 7 per cent reduction in pollution from energy supplies, as the power sector continued to switch away from coal to low-carbon technology such as renewables.

There was also a 3 per cent drop in emissions from transport, which have barely fallen since 1990 and now make up the biggest share of the UK’s climate pollution.

Mike Childs, head of research at Friends of the Earth, said: “We can’t ignore the fact that the energy transition is slowing. All the back-slapping from government on very modest improvements shows that they have not yet grasped the scale and speed of change needed.

“If we are to avoid climate chaos, we have to do much more: business as usual means more extreme weather, species extinctions and a grim future for young people.”

Energy data also published on Thursday revealed that renewables accounted for a record third of electricity generation in 2018, while coal was just 5 per cent, with gas at 39 per cent.

Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry was predictably less downbeat than Friends of the Earth.

“We can be proud that we continue to lead the way in reducing emissions while growing our economy,” she said. “More than half of our electricity comes from low-carbon sources thanks to more than £52bn of Government support for renewable projects in the UK since 2010, all part of our modern industrial strategy.”

Morten Thaysen, climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “For years now we’ve known that transport is the UK’s leading driver of the climate emergency. Both the Government and the car industry are stalling when we need proper action.

“Ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, instead of the Government’s date of 2040, would be a good starting point.

“Matching this with new policies to promote electric vehicles and greater support for cheap, green public transport, walking and cycling is essential, too.”

Shadow energy secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the new greenhouse gas figures “show that the Government is failing on climate change when nothing less than a Green Industrial Revolution is needed”.

“Public sector and residential emissions actually increased last year, while other sectors remain flat,” she continued. “Agricultural emissions are higher now than in the year 2000. Only a Labour government will tackle the climate emergency while revitalising whole swathes of the country that have been held back for decades.”

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