The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 3% in 2018 as pollution from the energy sector continued to decrease, provisional government figures show.
Emissions of the gases that drive climate change have fallen for six years in a row, and are 44% below the 1990 baseline for the UK. Emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are at the lowest level since before the start of the 20th century, when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, government officials said.
The fall was mainly due to a 7% reduction in pollution from energy suppliers, as the power sector continued to switch away from coal to low-carbon technology such as renewables.
There was also a 3% drop in emissions from transport, which have barely fallen since 1990 and now make up the biggest share of the UK’s climate pollution.
Energy data also published on Thursday revealed that renewables accounted for a record third (33%) of electricity generation in 2018, while coal was just 5%, and gas was 39%.
Low-carbon generation, which covers renewables and nuclear, rose to a record 53%, the figures show.
Claire Perry, the energy and clean growth minister, said: “We can be proud that we continue to lead the way in reducing emissions while growing our economy.
“More than half of our electricity comes from low-carbon sources thanks to more than £52bn of government support for renewable projects in the UK since 2010, all part of our modern industrial strategy.”
Greenpeace argued transport emissions were falling at a “snail’s pace”. Morten Thaysen, a Greenpeace climate campaigner, said: “For years now we’ve known that transport is the UK’s leading driver of the climate emergency.
“Both the government and the car industry are stalling when we need proper action. Ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, instead of the government’s date of 2040, would be a good starting point.
“Matching this with new policies to promote electric vehicles and greater support for cheap, green public transport, walking and cycling is essential too.”
The shadow energy secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said the new greenhouse gas figures “show that the government is failing on climate change when nothing less than a green industrial revolution is needed”.
She added: “Public sector and residential emissions actually increased last year, while other sectors remain flat. Agricultural emissions are higher now than in the year 2000. Only a Labour government will tackle the climate emergency while revitalising whole swathes of the country that have been held back for decades.”