UK Is Now Halfway Toward Meeting Its Zero-Carbon Goal by 2050

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom have plunged by 51 percent since 1990 and the country is halfway toward slashing its CO2 emissions to zero by 2050, according to the Web site Carbon Brief.

The U.K.’s CO2 emissions fell 11 percent last year, in large part because of reduced economic activity as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. But Carbon Brief reported that even without that precipitous drop, the U.K. is well on its way to “net-zero” carbon emissions. Indeed, last year’s carbon emissions in the U.K. were at their lowest levels since 1879, during the reign of Queen Victoria. And on a per capita basis, the the nation’s carbon emissions last year were as low as in 1853, Carbon Brief said.

The sharp drop in greenhouse gas emissions in recent decades is largely due to the near-disappearance of coal as a source of electricity and the rapid rise of renewable energy in the U.K. Last year, for the first time, more electricity was generated from renewables — 43 percent of the power supply, up from 2 percent in 1990 — than from fossil fuels. Much of that green energy comes from the rapid expansion of wind power, which saw an 18 percent jump in power generation from 2019 to 2020 and now accounts for 25 percent of the country’s electricity supply.

Coal, meanwhile, is nearly dead. In 1990, coal accounted for two-thirds of U.K. electricity generation. Now, coal produces just 1.6 percent of the country’s electricity, and on nearly half of the days in 2020, no coal was burned to produce electricity, Carbon Brief reported.

Overall, U.K. emissions fell from 794 million tons of CO2 equivalent in 1990 to 389 million tons in 2020. Per capita CO2 emissions in the U.K. are now 4.5 tons, which is less than two-thirds the per capita emissions in the U.S. and is 40 percent lower than per capita emissions in China.