UK demand for coal at its lowest level since 1757 as greenhouse gas emissions fall by 3.4%

Despite a year-on-year increase in traffic to pre-covid levels and a doubling of air traffic from the previous year, greenhouse gas emissions in the UK fell by 3.4% in 2022, following a 15% reduction in the use of coal. 

The report by Carbon Brief, based on preliminary government energy data does however observe that emissions would have increased were it not for warmer than average weather and the increased input of solar and wind power. High energy prices are also likely too have stifled demand. 

white and black ship on sea under white clouds

Following the the lockdown year of 2020 in which greenhouse gas emissions plummeted by nearly 10%, there was 5% rise in 2021, the first rise of any kind since 2012.

Over a longer period of time emissions are nearly half of what they were in 1990, despite the fact that the economy has grown by 75% in that time.

There are a number of reasons for the decline in coal use but one the most heartening is the 25% growth in wind power, thanks to increased capacity and the fact the the previous year was notable for a lack of wind.

Carbon Brief went on to make the observation that because the use of coal is now so low, the UK is going to have to start concentrating on other sources of emissions in the quest for net-zero, adding that emissions need to fall by this amount every year until 2050 for targets to be met.

One of these other sources is obviously transport, and petrol and diesel use was up on the previous year by 8% and 7% respectively. Road traffic has now returned to pre-covid levels, however UK air traffic however is still 20% below its 2019 levels. 

Ironically, on  the day this information was released, the National Grid have asked two of the moth-balled emergency coal pants to fire up in anticipation of elevated demand during the forthcoming cold conditions.


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