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?

US greenhouse gas emissions climb in 2021

12/01/2022
Despite the global emission reduction promises spurred by the pandemic in 2020, the Rhodium Group reports a 6.2% rise of US emissions in 2021, followi...

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ExxonMobil unveils new GHG emissions reduction targets

08/12/2021
ExxonMobil has announced plans to increase spending to $15bn on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction projects over the next six years. The company...

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UK government-backed liquid hydrogen plane paves way for zero emission flight

08/12/2021
Passengers could one day fly anywhere in the world with no carbon emissions and just one stop onboard a new concept aircraft unveiled by the Aerospace...

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UK government must invigorate its post-COP26 effort on climate change

08/12/2021
The success or otherwise of last month’s COP26 climate conference can only be assured by actions that follow over the coming year and beyond. So concl...

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Divestments driving methane emission reductions in oil and gas sector

08/12/2021
While some of the largest oil and gas producers have lowered their emissions in line with sustainability goals, a large portion of those reductions co...

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Events and training

Technical guidance publications

HM 32. Guide to hydrocarbon management at petroleum product marketing and distribution terminals

2021
The control of oil loss, both real and apparent, is a critical objective in the management of petroleum product terminals. This document provides advi...

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HM 79. Shore tank handbook. Tank design and ancilliary equipment relating to measurement and sampling of hydrocarbon liquids in shore tanks

2021
This document identifies the standards and considers alternative designs and equipment used in onshore storage tanks for petroleum liquids, specifical...

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Technical workshop proceedings: Hydrogen safety cases – Challenges in hydrogen safety case development in UK/European industrial clusters

2021
This document is free to download for registered users.The workshop reported herein was convened under the auspices of the EI Hy2004 Hydrogen Safety C...

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Managing the replant of a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant

2021
This publication provides guidance on establishing good practice for the safe and structured approach to the management of a replant of a CCGT power p...

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Guidance on the identification and assessment of contaminants of emerging concern in soil and groundwater at industrial sites

2021
The aim of this guidance is to promote a risk-based and pragmatic approach to identification and management of CEC at industrial sites, which still co...

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