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?

Events and training

EI LIVE free webinar | Energy investment & innovation

2-06-2020
Energy investment & innovation - strategic challenges for an industry in transition - 2 June 2020, 12pmThis free online webinar is organised by the UK Committee of the World Petroleum Council in association with the Energy Institute. The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has quickly evolved i...

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EI LIVE free webinar | Targeting Net Zero

11-06-2020
Charting your organisation’s response to the climate emergency

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Energy Efficiency: The Road to Net Zero

23-09-2020
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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Powering Net Zero

8-10-2020
The Energy Institute’s new conference, Powering Net Zero, is designed to discuss ways in which clean electricity and electrification will be essential in reducing emissions globally to net zero.

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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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Technical guidance publications

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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Guidance on human factors safety critical task analysis

2020
This publication is free to download, please log in to see the download option.The first edition of Guidance on human factors safety critical task analysis filled a gap by enabling companies and human factors (HF) non-specialists to conduct quality HF analyses in a structured and consistent format. ...

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Model Code of Safe Practice Part 2: Guidance on the design, construction and operation of petroleum distribution installations

2019
EI Model Code of Safe Practice Part 2: Guidance on the design, construction and operation of petroleum distribution installations has been developed to provide guidance and good practice in the layout, design and construction of distribution installations and their equipment. It also provides certai...

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