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UK and US both going back to 19th century? UK to past pollution levels, US to past polluting technologies

November 26th, 2017 · No Comments

A rather stunning thing passed by earlier this year: the United Kingdom’s 2016 emissions were back to 19th century levels. The key reason: a massive (52 percent) decline in coal use.

the most dramatic change in 2016 came from coal emissions, which fell by 50% compared to a year earlier to around 37 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2). A decade earlier, in 2006, UK coal emissions stood at 137MtCO2.

The 2016 record low coal use levels followed 2015’s record low coal use followed 2014’s record coal use. Coal is now 75% below 2006 levels and 1/12the peak 1956 usage level. There is no one (except perhaps coal-promoters in the Trump White House) who have any expectation of a turn-around in this path forward as the United Kingdom accelerates its move beyond coal.

The United Kingdom soon will fall to half its peak (1970) emission levels primarily because of coal’s decline. Coal is being drven from the market by:

  • Cheap natural gas
  • Renewables
  • Energy efficiency
  • Closure of a steel plant

Even with all these, the key driver that will maintain the accelerated pace is the United Kingdom’s imposition of a reasonable (even if below actual externalities/social cost of carbon) price imposed on carbon that “doubled in 2015 to £18 per tonne of CO2.”

A simple economic reality globally … coal is not coming back.

Sadly, the Trump Administration is governed by #alternativefacts dystopian ideology, rather than reality, and conceives of a coal renaissance.  Thus, while the United Kingdom drives down emissions by moving @BeyondCoal, #PollutingPruitt, Rick Perry, and the rest of the fossil-foolish GOP seek to hurt the U.S. by reviving a less efficient and more polluting 19th century coal economy.

Interestingly, in both the United Kingdom and the United States (along with ever more places in the world), transportation is outpacing electricity as the leading carbon polluting sector.

This highlights the criticality of electrification of transportation as part of the climate solutions path forward.


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Tags: coal · Energy