UK decarbonising fastest among G20 countries, claims PwC

By Liam Stoker

 13 Sep 2017, 07:46

The UK is decarbonising its economy faster than any other country in the G20, new analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has claimed. 

Figures compiled by the accountancy giant revealed that the carbon intensity of the UK economy fell by 7.7% last year, reaching an intensity of 142 tonnes CO2 for every US$1 million of gross domestic product (GDP).

In comparison China, despite reducing its carbon intensity by 6.5% last year, still emits 431 tonnes of CO2 per US$1 million of GDP.

PwC charts the decarbonisation of global economies within its Low Carbon Economy Index which simultaneously placed the global average at around 2.6%, meaning that the UK is decarbonising nearly three times faster than the average global economy.

But perhaps ominously, the bulk of the UK’s decarbonisation progress appears to have been made within the power sector. 

Renewables have continued to grow their share of the UK’s power mix at coal’s expense, with PwC citing the drastic reduction in coal consumption within the UK as a crucial factor for its decarbonisation success.

This has overwhelmingly been a result of the government’s previous support of renewable energy generation through policies and subsidies and Jonathan Grant, director of climate change and co-author of the LCEI report at PwC, lauded the UK government for creating a “pretty positive investment climate” for low carbon technologies in previous years. 

“We’re using less coal and investing in more renewable power. However this transition away from coal is now nearly complete.  The UK now needs to tackle other parts of the economy – whether it’s increasing renewables or efficiency improvements – in order to maintain its position as a climate leader,” he said.

While the country is estimated to overshoot its immediate targets for decarbonisation within the power sector, there remain concerns about future progress given the curtailment of certain policies in recent years and the lack of certainty over the future of the Levy Control Framework.

The cheapest forms of renewables in onshore wind and solar PV continue to find themselves locked out of renewable energy auctions in the UK, while the government has yet to confirm if the LCF will continue after its current lifespan comes to an end in 2020/21. 

Confirmation of that and possible support for further renewable generation could feature in the government’s forthcoming clean growth plan, however this piece of legislation is now more than a year late and yesterday ministers ducked questions on the subject.

However climate change minister Claire Perry has been quick to laud the UK’s decarbonisation to date.

“This report confirms the UK is leading the world in the fight against climate change and highlights the results of our efforts to phase out dirty coal power while investing in renewable technologies and energy efficiency. 

“The government recognises there is still work to do. The upcoming clean growth plan will outline our ambitious plan for reducing emissions in key sectors, while taking advantage of opportunities to grow the economy throughout the 2020s,” she said.