« The 21st of April 2017 marked the first time since the start of electrification where the United Kingdom went an entire day without depending on coal for electricity generation. This event was repeated several times until the country achieved two entire weeks of zero coal consumption in May 2019 (BBC, 2019), revealing that the coal industry, born in the UK, is officially waning. The transition was spectacularly quick: in 2014, coal was still the first source of energy produced in the UK. What is behind such a success? »
- The steep decline in coal-based power generation explains a dramatic fall in British emissions, now settled at around 390 million tonnes of CO2 per year, their lowest point since the end of the 19th One of the main factors is the carbon tax (Carbon Price Floor), which is enforced for businesses that are already subjected to the emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), and guarantees a floor price for carbon.
- British climate policy is characterized both by significant financial incentives (Climate Change Levy, etc.) and institutional innovations. All non-state actors are therefore involved in the making and implementation of climate policy (Climate Change Agreements, etc.). The Committee on Climate Change, in charge of advising the government, constitutes an example of the mobilisation of civil society expertise and is a key actor of the progress made by the UK.
- Against the backdrop of a fragmented and competitive energy market, incentives enabled businesses to create a virtuous circle of mutual reinforcement, making it easier to accept the decline of the coal industry from 2015.
- Organisations (NGOs, think-tanks) and citizen movements’ resistance and even civil disobedience in the face of multiple fossil fuel projects are considered a decisive factor for steering Parliament towards the declaration of a climate emergency, and with greater reason, civil society.
- Yet, progress remains frail because of the political, regulatory, and commercial uncertainty created by Brexit, which could possibly challenge the country’s commitments at the European level.
- Emission levels at a historical low thanks to a sharp decline in the coal industry
- A pioneering national framework facing the European energy transition
- Vested governments seize national ambition
- A fragmented electricity market despite converging actions
- The expertise and growing demands from a determined civil society