Climate change and emissions

Global average temperature has risen by approximately 1°C since the late 19th century

Global weather patterns change over time, driven by natural and human factors. The long-term measurement of weather in a region is known as its climate. Changes to the climate are likely to result in disruptions to water resources, ecosystems and crop yields, as well as increased weather-related extremes, vulnerability of marginalised populations and sea level rise. Human activities including the use of fossil fuels for energy as well as agriculture, deforestation and other industries are releasing increased amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Elevated concentrations of these gases trap increased solar radiation in the atmosphere and are the primary cause of warming of the Earth, and particularly the oceans (IPCC).

Current scientific evidence suggests there is a higher risk of significant and possibly dangerous changes in the global environment if the global temperature rise passes a 2°C threshold compared to pre-industrial times. Significant efforts by the international community are underway to avoid the worst impacts of climate change; to achieve this, harnessing energy in ways that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases is crucial. Since 1992, most countries have been part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty providing a framework for international cooperation for combating climate change. This was followed by the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 which commits its developed country Parties to internationally binding emission reduction targets, and the Paris Agreement in 2015 which sets out an international action plan to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Reaching these targets would require emission patterns to change throughout the global economy. Key opportunities for the energy sector lie in demand side interventions such as energy efficiency and flexible systems, as well as renewable energy sources.

Learn more about climate change and emissions by exploring records published on our Energy Matrix.

For details on the progress in achieving the global and national climate change targets read the Energy World analyses.

Discover UK energy professionals' views of the best measures to reach emissions targets by reading our annual Energy Barometer.

What's new?

Green number plates get the green light for a zero-emission future

16-06-2020
Green number plats are set to be rolled out from autumn, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed, under plans to drive a green economic recovery in the UK.As part of the government’s plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, drivers will be encouraged to make the switch to electric vehi...

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UK offshore oil and gas industry outline plans to cut emissions by half in next decade

16-06-2020
The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry has committed to halving operational emissions in the next decade, confirming its pathway to becoming a net zero emissions basin by 2050.A report published by industry body OGUK, The pathway to net zero: Production emissions targets, outlines how targ...

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A new UK emissions trading system?

15-06-2020
The UK government has published proposals published showing how a new UK-wide Emissions Trading System (ETS) would work. The system – designed by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments with the Northern Ireland Executive – would be a crucial step towards achieving the UK’s target for net zero carbo...

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Permian CO2 emissions intensity from flaring set to reach record low in 2H2020

4-06-2020
The flaring-related CO2 emissions intensity of oil production in the US Permian basin is set to reach historically low levels in 2H2020, averaging at between 4–5 kg CO2/b of oil produced, according to Rystad Energy estimates.The CO2 equivalent emission intensity associated with wellhead flaring has ...

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UK government presses ahead with new Emissions Trading System proposal

1-06-2020
The UK government is increasing the country’s climate ambitions with new proposals  showing how a new UK-wide Emissions Trading System (ETS) would work – putting a cost on carbon pollution to encourage polluters to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) they emit.The system would form...

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Events and training

EI LIVE free webinar | Community Partnerships for Low Carbon Heat

14-07-2020
This webinar is hosted by the EI East Midlands branch.

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EI LIVE | Energy Efficiency: The Road to Net Zero

16-09-2020
Discover the latest approaches and strategies in energy efficiency that can help the UK reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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EL LIVE Free Webinar | Powering net zero

8-10-2020
Join our free webinar on 8 October 2020 at 9.00 - 10.40 BST

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Renewables: Health, Safety and Sustainability

4-11-2020
Early-bird rate expires 31 July - prices will increase by £50 on 1 August 2020Build renewables in a safe and sustainable way - ensure that your organisation has the necessary health, safety and sustainability practices in place.

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Middle East Sustainability Forum

9-12-2020
This is part of Middle East HSE and Sustainability Week - for the HSE Forum please click here. Sustainability: unmasking a new global landscape "Rather than compounding the [COVID-19] tragedy by allowing it to hinder clean energy transitions, we need to seize the opportunity to help accelerate the...

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Technical guidance publications

Guidance on the correct and safe handling of NOx reduction agent (AUS 32/AdBlue)

2020
This publication is free to download for registered users.This publication focuses on the installation of tank, pipe and pumping systems for the storage and dispensing of urea solutions (NOx reduction agent (AUS 32/AdBlue)) used in the treatment of diesel exhaust on vehicles.This document addresses ...

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Guidance on power station closure, decommissioning and handover for demolition or sale

2020
This publication provides guidance on a typical project process to safely and economically prepare a power station for decommissioning and for its handover in a safe state for demolition. The guidance has been developed based on the experience of operators and references other guidance where appropr...

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Code of safe practice for contractors and retailers managing contractors working on filling stations

2020
This publication is intended for all contractors, subcontractors and self-employed persons who are required to carry out work on a filling station, and for retailers who are required to manage contractors whilst on their premises. It focuses on safety and good practice procedures whilst referencing ...

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Battery storage guidance note 2: Battery energy storage system fire planning and response

2020
This publication is free to download. Please log in to see the download option.This publication provides guidance on how to respond to BESS fires. It represents the 'current state' of knowledge (in 2019), but also identifies gaps in knowledge. The guidance covers primarily non-domestic battery insta...

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Guidelines on detecting, controlling and mitigating microbial growth in oils and fuels used at power generation facilities

2020
This guidance document focuses on addressing operational problems from microbial growth in turbine, lubricating, transformer and other oils and diesel fuels at power stations. The consequences of microbial growth in oils include additive depletion, tank and pipe sludging, filter plugging, gauging pr...

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