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How the UK Reduced Carbon Emissions to the Lowest Levels in 100 Years

The collapse of the coal industry is a driving factor.

For the first time in history, the carbon emissions in the United Kingdom are as low as they have been in 1894 – the year the first car went into mass production.

How did the country accomplish this incredible feat? The change didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it was the result of several intertwining factors that, together, produced the right conditions for widespread reduction in carbon emissions.

Collapse of Coal

Ten years ago, the coal industry was responsible for a staggering 137 million tons of carbon emissions in the U.K. Today, that number has dropped to 37 million.

This is in large part due to the gradual decline of the coal industry that began decades ago. However, the numbers shifted sharply in 2016, with a 52% drop in demand for coal from the previous year.

Less coal means less carbon emissions.

Carbon Tax

In 2013, the U.K. became the first member of the European Union to institute a carbon tax. This was despite fierce lobbying from energy companies, who claimed the tax would kick up energy bills and reduce the U.K. competitiveness on the global market.

Regardless, the carbon tax made polluting fossil fuels more expensive to produce, encouraging growth and investment in renewable energy sources.

Of course, with the changing government and the impact of Brexit, many wonder if the carbon tax is long for this world.

Rise in Renewable Energy

2016 was the first year that wind farms in the U.K. generated more electricity than coal. Today, 24.6% of its energy comes from renewable energy sources. Wind and solar farms are springing up in fields across the U.K., following a global trend towards investment in renewable energy sources.

If the country stays the course, the U.K. is set to meet its target of being 15% renewable by 2021.