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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?

Global carbon emissions creep to record high in 2019

11-12-2019
Increase in greenhouse gas emissions means the world looks likely to overshoot Paris Agreement target – even with declines in coal use.Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are believed to have risen – albeit modestly – for the third year in a row, according to newly-issued estimates from the Glo...

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Generating negative emissions with bioenergy

1-12-2019
The push for net zero means the UK has to develop some way of delivering ‘negative emissions’, perhaps capturing carbon emitted from bioenergy schemes. Here, the REA’s Samuel Stevenson discusses the possibilities.

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Decarbonising the UK gas network ‘essential to meet net zero emissions’

27-11-2019
Decarbonising the existing gas network will be a critical component in plans for the UK to meet its net zero targets, with decarbonisation of the heating sector being one of the most challenging issues. So concludes a new report, Pathways to Net Zero prepared by Navigant for the Energy Net...

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Urgency demands inclusivity - EI President joins NGOs to discuss climate change

18-11-2019
EI President Steve Holliday appealed for a more inclusive approach to fighting climate change, as he debated the need for urgent action with co-panellists at Energy Live EXPO in Westminster in November.He was joined on the platform by representatives of environmental NGOs – Kirsty Gogan of Energy Fo...

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World needs ‘laser focus’ on emissions reduction – IEA

11-11-2019
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will continue to rise by approximately 1.3% annually until 2040 – even if countries meet their existing environmental targets. Considerably stronger policies and more ambitious targets are needed to prevent c...

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Events and training

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Technical guidance publications

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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A model syllabus for the training of technicians involved in the examination, testing, maintenance and repair of petroleum road tankers

2019
The third edition of the syllabus is essential reading for all those involved in road tanker fleet operations, maintenance and repair workshops, and those with responsibility for the training of road tanker technicians.It has been developed to provide companies that undertake the maintenance of petr...

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HM 60. Guidelines for the auditing of measurement systems for oil and gas streams

2019
This publication has been produced as a high level guideline on auditing for use by all of those involved in the measurement process in the upstream oil and gas industry.Measurement system auditing is a critical activity for all operators producing hydrocarbons to ensure financial interests are prot...

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Guidelines for the investigation of the microbial content of liquid fuels and for the implementation of avoidance and remedial strategies

2019
This publication provides an overview of the factors which cause and exacerbate microbial growth and the problems caused, offering detailed procedures for good housekeeping to avoid microbial growth, and describes the indicators of contamination and appropriateanalytical methods for investigation. I...

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Battery storage guidance note 1: Battery storage planning

2019
This publication is free to download. Please log in to see the download option.Battery storage is expected to play an important role in the energy transition, allowing the storage of electrical energy from renewables for later use, and helping to balance grid load. This publication provides guidance...

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