It appears the UK is breaking up with coal for the first time in its 140-year love affair. The nation made its relationship status official earlier this week after producing a record 55 hours of electricity without burning any coal.
It’s part of the government’s plan to switch off all coal plants by 2025 (unless they are fitted with carbon capture technology) and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels over the next three decades.
A decade ago, the UK Parliament enacted the Climate Change Act that committed to reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. As a result, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) was created to ensure targets are “evidence-based and independently assessed”. Their efforts seem to have been working.
In 2017, greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3 percent as coal use dropped and renewable investments continued to climb. With more offshore wind turbines installed than any other country in Europe and the increasing capacity of the field of solar panels to meet more and more of Britain’s demand for power, last month the two produced more electricity than nuclear for the first time in UK history.
An analysis by Carbon Brief shows the UK’s CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent in 2016 following a record 52 percent reduction in coal use. Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy analyzed by the Climate Action Program show that coal now only accounts for 5.3 percent of primary energy consumption in the UK, down from 22 percent in 1995.
While the British government has divested resources from coal endeavors, President Trump has made it a mission to reinvest in the industry. Early last year, he repealed the Obama-era Stream Protection Rule that restricted coal companies from dumping waste in streams. It seems like the rest of the world is ready to move on regardless. A coalition of more than two dozen countries – known collectively as COP23 – has joined together in a mission to phase out the use of coal and instead invest in clean power due to the negative health effects of air pollution from burning coal, like respiratory diseases and premature death.