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?

EIA projects increase in global energy consumption and emissions until 2050

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that without significant changes in policy or technology, world energy consumption will gr...

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Tackling methane emissions

Methane emissions reduction is a significant challenge for the oil and gas sector on the road to net zero. Robert Kester, President, Honeywell Rebelli...

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New Global Methane Pledge aims to tackle climate change

The European Union (EU) and the US have announced a Global Methane Pledge to deliver a 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 (based on 2020 level...

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From SUVs to EVs – cutting carbon emissions

Drivers of fuel hungry SUVs (sports utility vehicles) could save the UK at least 8.7mn tonnes of carbon emissions each year, helping the country in it...

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UK calls for zero global shipping emissions by 2050

The UK government is backing an absolute zero target for international shipping emissions by 2050, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said at London Int...

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Events and training

Middle East HSE and Sustainability Week

22 - 24 November 2021, virtual conference Resilience: Responding | Rebuilding | Reimagining Middle East HSE and Sustainability Week brings togeth...

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EI LIVE: free webinar | Energy Policy Debate: What was achieved at COP26?

2 December 2021, 11.00 – 13.00 UK time, OnlinePlease note that registration closes at 17:00 GMT on 1 December 2021

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Technical guidance publications

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

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

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

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

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

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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Guidance on petroleum hydrocarbon forensic chemistry for site investigation and remediation Volume 2

This publication provides a practical introductory guide to petroleum hydrocarbon forensic chemistry, including a summary of changes in fuel specifica...

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