Energy supply achieves biggest reduction in carbon emissions

A fall in the amount of coal burned to generate electricity contributed to a 6% reduction in the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions during 2016, according to the latest official statistics.

The power supply sector reported a 17% fall in total greenhouse gas emissions – larger than any other group of emitters – with a rise in output from gas-fired power stations and renewable energy projects.

But the transport sector posted another 2% rise in emissions, on top of 2015’s 2% increase.

Transport now accounts for 26% of all the UK’s emissions, surpassing the power generation sector’s 25% share.

Cuts from 1990’s level

Overall greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 41% when compared with 1990’s level, putting the UK on course to meet its second carbon budget, which requires a 31% fall from the 1990 baseline.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “We want to build on this success, which is why clean growth is at the heart of our ambitious Industrial Strategy, ensuring the UK is well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the switch to a low carbon economy.”

Yet critics argue the measures outlined in the UK Government’s Clean Growth Plan do not go far enough to fulfil the cuts to emissions required under the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Emissions from the business sector fell by 5.4% during 2016 following the closure of the Redcar steel works.

Transport in ‘slow lane’

Simon Bullock, a climate campaigner at environmental charity Friends of the Earth, said: “Transport Secretary Chris Grayling must play catch-up fast – his department can't continue to crawl along in the slow lane when it comes to tackling climate change.

“While work to decarbonise the power sector remains ongoing, transport’s rise to the top of the emissions heap is likely to catapult it to the top of the political agenda.

“Forget coal, which is now destined to be forced off the grid within a few years – its petrol and diesel cars that are now next in line for bold climate action.”

> See BEIS's statistics