What’s going on here?

A recent study conducted by the Carbon Brief recorded a 5.7% fall in the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2023 compared to the previous year. Emissions in 2023 fell to their lowest level since 1879, with carbon dioxide emissions dropping below 400MtCO2e (million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) for the first time since Victorian times. 

The primary cause of the 5.7% fall in GHG emissions is attributed to a 20% reduction in gas as a source of domestic power. With the UK reverting to its long standing position as a net electricity importer in 2023 less electricity was domestically produced. Imported French nuclear electricity replaced UK gas production. However warmer winter temperatures and a rise in fuel costs also helped to reduce domestic consumption of electricity; all contributing to the fall in domestic emissions. 

What does this mean?

The UK is a leader in domestic emission reduction, with emissions declining faster in the past 30 years than most other countries on Earth. However it is estimated that GHG emissions in 49 countries have already passed their peak, with other countries including China also pledging to peak in 2030. The international community observes with hope that milestone drop in the UK’s emissions marks a shift towards urgent emission reduction, setting an exciting precedent for the global transition towards a more sustainable future.

However, this future remains uncertain. Emission reduction must accelerate to prevent exceeding a 2 degree rise in global temperatures by the end of the century. 

Additionally, the fall in the UK’s emissions was notably unrelated to climate action. Solar and wind power generation were only small contributors. It is crucial to scale up climate action to further facilitate the necessary sharp fall in emissions to keep global dreams of 2 degrees alive. A powerful message both domestically and also internationally. 

Why should we care?

The UK has made rapid progress in cutting domestic emissions since 1990. However, it still only remains about halfway to reaching its net-zero target for 2050. With climate action generally negligible, this presents an exciting opportunity to rapidly upscale low carbon energy alternatives including the expansion of wind and solar energy. Recent government decisions backtracking on key climate policies such as the 2030 phase out of new petrol and diesel cars, potentially threaten domestic efforts to expand the low carbon economy.

In the year of elections, with 64 countries holding national elections taking place internationally in 2024, this provides an excellent opportunity to lobby governments, prioritise emission reduction strategies and have your say in climate politics. 

Be curious…!

  • Read the full Carbon Brief report here  
  • Have a look at the potential impact of climate change on elections this year here, and 5 elections results which could threaten climate action here
  • For UK readers, you must register to vote before the election later this year/early next year 

Featured image credit World History Encyclopaedia

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