Since the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago, not a single day has passed in Great Britain without coal fumes polluting the air. But on the eve of Earth Day, the country might finally be starting a new chapter, according to a tweet sent out by the Electricity National Control Center at the National Grid.

“Great Britain has never had a continuous 24-hour period without #coal,” it wrote in the tweet. Until now, the longest period had been about 19 hours.

A spokesman from the control room said the milestone is a sign of progress to come, as coal-free days have become increasingly common.

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“A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable,” Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said in an email. “And in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.”

The UK, one of the first countries to begin phasing out the fossil fuel industry, aims to end coal use by 2025. To date, the country has the most wind turbines installed in the world. By September of last year, UK solar panels produced more electricity than did coal power.

Further, only nine percent of electricity generated in 2016 came from coal as power plants have begun to close or switch over to burning biomass.

Britain’s progress is part of the European Union’s larger agenda to meet the climate change commitments made during the groundbreaking Paris climate accord of December 2015. Almost 200 nations pledged to cut fossil-fuel pollution.

The UK, and other European countries set an example for the rest of the world that going green is possible.

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“The first country [UK] to use coal for electricity is now on the cusp of being the first major economy completely phase it out,” Ben Caldecott, director of the sustainable finance program at the University of Oxford, said. “Doing so will improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions, and help attract investment into more reliable and secure alternatives.”


Defend the Planet

Britain Has Its First Day Without Burning Coal in Over 250 Years

By Gabriella Canal