UK emissions in 2023 fell to lowest level since 1879

The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 5.7% in 2023 to their lowest level since 1879, according to new Carbon Brief analysis.

Carbon Brief’s analysis, based on preliminary government energy data, shows emissions fell to just 383m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2023. This is the first time they have dropped below 400MtCO2e since Victorian times.

Other key findings from the analysis include:

  • The UK’s emissions are now 53% below 1990 levels, while GDP has grown by 82%.
  • The drop in emissions in 2023 was largely due to an 11% fall in gas demand. This was due to higher electricity imports after the French nuclear fleet recovered, above-average temperatures and weak underlying demand driven by high prices.
  • Gas demand would have fallen even faster, but for a 15% fall in UK nuclear output.
  • Coal use fell by 23% in 2023 to its lowest level since the 1730s, as all but one of the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations closed down.
  • Transport was the single-largest sector in terms of emissions, followed by buildings industry, agriculture and electricity generation. The electricity sector likely dropped below agriculture for the first time.

While the 23MtCO2e reduction in 2023 was faster than the 14MtCO2e per year average needed to reach net-zero by 2050, it was mostly unrelated to deliberate climate action. The UK will need to address emissions from buildings, transport, industry and agriculture to reach its 2050 target.

Read the full analysis by Carbon Brief here.

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