Climate change and emissions

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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 our Energy Insights.

For details on the progress in achieving the global and national climate change targets read the New 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?

$2tn a year needed to triple global renewables by 2030 and ensure ‘energy for all’

28/02/2024

‘$2tn a year sounds like a cost, but it’s really a choice. We’re set to invest over $6tn in fossil fuels over this decade – more than enough to close ...

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UK pulls out of Energy Charter Treaty

28/02/2024

Signed in 1994, the Energy Charter Treaty was designed to promote international investment in the energy sector, historically providing protections fo...

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Dark cloud over Indonesia’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2060 – says IEEFA think tank

21/02/2024

The lowering of Indonesia’s renewable energy ambitions is at odds with the direction of travel of much of the rest of the world and the landmark agree...

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Women Climate Leaders Network is established

21/02/2024

The EIB Group, made up of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF), is bringing together prominent women leaders from...

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Power grids require $3.1tn investment worldwide by 2030

21/02/2024

In that scenario, Rystad Energy predicts that an additional 18mn km of grid network would be needed to keep pace with the electrification underway acr...

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Events and training

EI LIVE I Technical Webinar: Green hydrogen

25/03/2024

Technical Webinar: Green hydrogenThe energy transition continues to drive global momentum behind limiting climate change. International efforts are un...

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UK Energy Policy Debate: Battle for Energy Ideas

18/04/2024

This April sees the return of the Energy Institute’s Energy Policy Debates, exploring the ‘Battle of the Energy Ideas’, where distin...

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Technical guidance publications

Energy retail station sites green guide: opportunities to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

2023

The energy and fuel retail sector is one of many industries expected to undergo considerable disruption in the next decade to meet the emerging challe...

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Tripod lite: A ‘lite’ tool for investigating simple incidents, events and near misses

2023

This publication is free to download.  Register or log in, then click 'download'.Note: this will download a document 'landing page' that inc...

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Research report: Application of life cycle assessment methodology to the understanding of the energy balance and efficiency of hydrogen value chain building blocks

2022

This document is free to download for registered users.This publication explores the efficiencies of the hydrogen energy system and quantifies the ene...

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Waste to products – Technology and economic assessment (phase 1)

2022

This document is free to download for registered users.The EMG and Soil Wastes and Groundwater group (SWG) of the EI and Concawe have commissioned E4t...

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High level framework for process safety management

2022

In 2010 the EI's Process Safety Committee identified a benefit in promoting a common high-level framework for PSM across the energy industry sectors. ...

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