United Kingdom Checkup

United Kingdom—Standing Still

The Carbon Brief’s report states that in order for the UK to meet its Paris Agreement goal, plans must be drawn up immediately for greenhouse gas removal technologies while simultaneously more work needs to be done to reduce its existing emission levels.

In line with the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, 5-yearly ‘carbon budgets’ are drawn up to specify how the UK will reach both it’s target in the Paris Agreement, and the UK’s self-imposed target to cut emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. However, the ambition that these carbon budgets state have been found to be not ambitious enough to reach the targets specified in the Paris Agreement—a 90% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 with net zero emissions between 2050 and 2100. Though it must be noted that the Carbon Brief does state that the UK’s goals are very ambitious compared to other countries, and to what is feasible within the limited time frame.

However, there is still the question as to whether the UK is achieving the goals mandated by its own carbon budgets. The release of the government’s emission reduction plan has been delayed by a year, and projected UK emissions are far above what the carbon budgets require. The legal NGO ClientEarth even issued a report stating that the previously released government Carbon Plan in 2011 was in breach of its own act, and that it was not sufficient to meet the targets legally required.

When comparing the UK’s actual emission levels, the carbon budgets and the Paris Agreement goals, it is clear that ‘business as usual’ for the UK will not even nearly ensure the required reductions. To meet them requires immediate and large investment in emission removal technologies, and a ratcheting of ambition for future carbon plans. This must include a reversal of the decision to begin fracking, a reinstating of the subsidies for solar power, and unequivocal support for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

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Carbon Brief: ‘UK needs negative emissions to comply with Paris Climate deal’ October 2016. https://www.carbonbrief.org/ccc-uk-needs-negative-emissions-to-comply-with-paris-climate-deal

United Kingdom Emission Reduction Policy

Government Regulation Closing All Coal-fired Plants by 2025

In January 2016, then-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd announced that all UK coal-fired power plants would be closed by 2025, with their use restricted by 2023 at the latest. Rudd promised to prioritize energy security, competition within the energy market and a reduced financial burden on bill-payers, as well as ensuring that the replacement energy comes from sources that are affordable, clean and low-carbon. Rudd stated that “it cannot be satisfactory for…the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations. We need to build a new energy infrastructure fit for the 21st century. Our determination to cut carbon emissions as cost effectively as possible is crystal clear and this step will make us one of the first developed countries to commit to taking coal off our system.”

The initial response to this proposal was positive. Nick Mabey, chief executive of think tank E3G, said that ’it is significant that the country that led the industrial revolution is the first major economy to set a date for the phase out of unabated coal’. A total removal of coal from the UK’s energy landscape would contribute greatly towards achieving both the UK’s commitments in the Paris Agreement, and the emission reduction targets obligated by the UK Climate Change Act 2008.

However, this positivity was mitigated by several factors. First, Rudd emphasized that gas would be prioritized as the replacement energy source: a move Friends of the Earth described as “like an alcoholic switching from two bottles of whiskey a day to two bottles of port”. Although gas is less emission-intensive compared to coal, it is still a finite, fossil fuel-based resource that releases a considerable amount of emissions—an amount that is incompatible with achieving the UK’s long-term emission reduction targets. Second, the speech—and existing government policy— does not contain support for renewables as a method of ‘filling the gap’ that removing coal will open up. Indeed, much governmental policy has worked against renewables: the feed-in tariff for small scale solar installations was cut by 87%, financial aid was removed for new onshore wind farms and energy efficiency projects, and the Green Investment Bank (that funds projects contributing to the decarbonization of the UK’s economy) is in the process of being sold off. Paul Ekins, Co-Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, questioned, “who will invest in the new gas-fired power stations the government wants to replace coal, after its U-turns on renewables have left so many investors who believed past government policy out of pocket?”

Though Rudd’s proposal was headline-grabbing, evidence suggests that it is not as revolutionary as it first appeared. Coal usage in the UK has been declining for decades—and rapidly so in the past 5 years. Usage dropped 41% in 3 years from 2013 to 2015, with a huge drop of 22% between 2014 and 2015—which was the largest-ever annual reduction in coal usage not including from the miner’s strikes. As a share of the UK’s energy landscape, coal decreased from 29.7% in 2014 to 22.6% in 2015—whilst gas and nuclear remained roughly the same, but renewables gained 6%: eating up most of the capacity coal had dealt with. The UK’s coal consumption is now at its lowest levels since the start of the industrial revolution, and this is due to several factors. The central of these is the recent pre-planned closures of coal power stations that have reached the end of their workable lifespan. In 2016 alone 8 gigawatts of coal capacity (half of the UK’s remaining capacity) was closed. Second, Drax, the UK’s largest coal plant, switched to burning wood pellets instead. Third, the profitability of coal plants has plummeted due to falling wholesale electricity prices, the rising UK carbon floor price, and the cheapening of renewable alternatives. Overall, this points to the conclusion that coal was—due to ageing infrastructure and market forces—already being phased out at a rapid rate without the need for Rudd’s statement of intent. And though such a statement is always welcome for environmentalists, the clauses that Rudd included in her proposal mitigate the potential benefits that the policy could have had, and will ensure that while emissions are greatly reduced in the short-term, the UK’s long-term emission reduction targets will be wholly missed.

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United Kingdom Extreme Weather Event

2015-2016 UK Floods

December 2015 in the UK was the second wettest December there since records began. A complete lack of frost, and a temperature that was 4.1 degrees above average, resulted in huge amounts of rainfall being dropped within a 24-hour window. Large swathes of the north of England and Scotland received on average 5.9 inches of rainfall – with some areas of Cumbria even recording 13.4 inches. Gusts of up to 115 mph were frequent, and two more storms quickly followed: both depositing even heavier rainfall on already-saturated landscapes. Multiple rivers broke their banks, a bridge collapsed and gas pipes were ruptured.  Over 16,000 homes and businesses were flooded, many more suffered prolonged power-cuts, and dozens of rescue missions had to be undertaken by boat to save stranded residents.

It is clear that these storms, and the subsequent flooding, were weather events far outside the normal reaches of the British climate, and it is highly probable that it was influenced by climate change. Climate change has caused a rise in global temperatures that has resulted in the air within the Pacific and Atlantic jet streams being warmer. This in turn has enabled the air streams to hold more water vapor and thus increase the likelihood of extreme rainfall and flooding when they hit land. Dame Silgo, chief scientist at the Met Office, stated that just ‘from a basic physical understanding of weather systems, it is entirely plausible that climate change has exacerbated what has been a period of very wet and stormy weather.’

The sitting Conservative government received a lot of criticism for not heeding previous flood warnings and for cutting flood defense spending when it was most needed. In 2014, the Met Office advised the government that Britain was in line for more heavy rainfall events due to climate change, and that funding cuts would leave 240,000 households at greater risk of flood damage within 20 years. Nevertheless, with deficit reduction being prioritized over addressing climate change-related risks, the promised £400m per year for flood defense spending was cut sharply each year: £360m in 2010-11, to less than £270m in 2012-13. Funding was, on average, 37% lower than the funds provided by the previous government.

Following the storms, a raft of policies was announced to mitigate the immediate impacts, and to ensure long-term flood protection. Government figures state that over £200 million has been spent in extra investment for storm recovery. Local authorities were provided with £500 for each household affected, and £2,500 for each business. Households were provided with grants of up to £5,000 to install flood barriers, replace doors and windows with water-resistant alternatives and to move electricity sockets to safer levels. Flood affected communities would be exempt from Council Tax and business rate bills while they were out of their properties, and farmers could get grants of up to £20,000 to help restore damaged agricultural land. £40 million was pledged to help repair flood-damaged roads and bridges, and an additional £10 million was given to the Environmental Agency to repair and improve flood defenses. The government agreed to match every donation made by the public to support flood efforts up to £2 million, as well as pledging to invest a total of £2.3 billion in flood defenses over the next 6 years.

Opposition parties criticized this reaction as a ‘sticking-plaster response’, noting that the proposals mainly included funding that was already destined for such projects, and that the total earmarked was not enough to fully prepare for, and adapt to, future climate-change related extreme weather events.

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United Kingdom Media Organizations

Broadcast Media

BBC Radio, funded by British taxpayers, is owned by and is a division of the BBC, the British Broadcasting Company. It provides many radio programs that cover a variety of topics including music, sports, current affairs and more. Within it’s programming, across the entirety of its channels, climate change and environmental issues are featured prominently – often being the sole focus on shows or episodes – especially on BBC Radio 4. BBC Radio is supportive, though not uncritically so, of environmental and climate change-related campaigning. Shows often educate the public on key concepts or happenings within the sector, or highlight areas that are otherwise under-reported.

Content Samples:

Costing the Earth, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qdvlw
Costing the Earth is a BBC Radio 4 program on environmental issues and climate change. It focuses on man’s effect on the environment and how the environment reacts: questioning accepted truths, challenging those in charge, and reporting on progress towards improving the world. Episodes cover a wide variety of topics: from local issues to international climate change. Topics include Wildlife-Friendly Motorways, to the Forest of the Orangutan, and Spiritual Greens.

One Planet, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002vsn5/episodes/player
Since 1997, One Planet has been a BBC World Service program that covers environmental news and international development, looking at the way we live our lives on this planet and the consequence. The majority of episodes focus on different aspects of climate change: from ocean acidification to the impact of the changing climate in Northern Russia.

Contact: Office Mailing Address: BBC Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA
General Contact: @bbcradio4 or http://www.facebook.com/BBCRadio4

Owner: Editors: Each show on BBC Radio has a separate editor. ‘Costing the Earth’ is hosted by Tom Heap and produced by Martin Poyntz-Roberts; ‘One Planet’ is hosted by BBC’s Science Editor David Shukman.

Print Media

The Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine, which is the longest running environmental magazine having began in 1966, offers positive perspectives regarding the environment through a variety of lenses – from ecology and social justice, to spirituality and philosophy. The magazine emphasizes illustrations, art pieces and poetry as well as ideas on ethical living and book reviews, alongside more traditional ‘environmental reporting’. The Magazine is supportive, but not unqualifiedly so, of the Paris Agreement. Articles written on the subject often highlight the Agreement’s weaknesses and downsides, with the intent to generate further – and better – action.

Content Samples:

2050: We Can Make it. Issue 295 March/April 2016 ‘Walking Back to Happiness’. By Mukti Mitchell
This article discusses how the current emission reduction targets in the Paris Agreement are not enough to avert dangerous climate change, and that there are other ways of contributing towards climate change mitigation. Though the Paris Agreement was a positive step forwards – sending clear signals to business and political leaders – attention must be paid to the impact of modern industrial agriculture and diets, the de-carbonization and insulation of homes and offices, and energy efficiency in transport and industry.

Social Justice Must Accompany Action on Climate Change. Issue 295 March/April 2016 ‘Walking Back to Happiness. Adam Weymouth. adamweymouth@gmail.com
Discussed in this article is how the Paris Agreement, though ambitious and a ‘success’, must give a voice to the diversity of groups within the climate justice movement. These are groups that have not previously been aligned with the environmental movement, but have become so as environmentalism is an increasingly intersectional issue. Such groups include Veterans testifying on the environmental damage of war, BME groups emphasizing environmental justice, refugees and historical developmental trends, and Indigenous group’s highlighting the negative impact of fossil fuel extraction on their land and how the sacred has become commodified. Paris must be the ‘stepping stone for the building of momentum’, but it is important that no minority or at-risk group is silenced along the way.

Contact: Office Mailing Address: Ford House, Hartland, Bideford, Devon, EX39 6EE, General Email: info@resurgence.org, Tel: 01237 441 293
Owner & Publisher: The Resurgence Trust, a registered educational charity based in Devon, UK.
Editor: Satish Kumar, has been the magazine’s editor since 1973

Online Media

The Guardian is both an online news website, and a widely distributed newspaper, that has been in print since 1821. The Guardian has a dedicated ‘Environment’ section on its website, and a sub-section devoted to Climate Change within that. Multiple articles are released daily on climate change, covering opinion pieces, developments in science, policy and politics, and international news. The Guardian believes climate change exists, is supportive and optimistic about the Paris Agreement, and demands strong action in a variety of areas related to climate change mitigation – from renewable investment and R&D, to climate justice and emission reductions.
Content Samples:

Paris climate change agreement: the world’s greatest diplomatic success. 14th December 2015. By Fiona Harvey.
This article discusses the realities of the negotiations at the Paris Conference. The talk’s atmosphere was tense, but last minute compromises were resolved in the end and an agreement was reached. The agreement was hailed as ‘historic, durable and ambitious’, and required all countries to limit their emissions below two degrees, with regular reviews and financing provided for developing countries. However, the agreement isn’t perfect: more stringent emission reductions are required to prevent dangerous climate change.

The Paris agreement really does change everything. 7 October 2016. By Barry Gardiner.
The article states that the ratification of the Paris Agreement does change things for the better for the environmental movement. This is due to it setting the world on an irreversible trajectory in which all investment, regulation and industrial strategy must now align with the vision of the new ‘green economy’. This has already started to be actualized: in 2016 more than 500 institutions with assets totaling 3.4 trillion dollars, committed to divestment form fossil fuels. Government policies and market forces are uniting in pushing for a low-carbon revolution, and financial decision makers are recognizing the inescapability of climate change-related risks to investments. It is thus important to have an orderly, managed transition that minimizes risks while seizing new job and investment opportunities that arise.

Contact: Office Mailing Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way London N1 9GU, United Kingdom.General Point of Contact: @guardianeco, Tel: 020 3353 2000

United Kingdom Subnational Best Practices


Scotland—In the UK, Scotland has taken strong leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and for the first time last year met and exceeded its emissions targets. According to the Evening Express, the figures released by the Scottish Government revealed that the country managed a reduction of 39.5% from 1990 to 2014 whereas England’s and the UK’s reductions were 34% and 33% respectively. In terms of carbon emissions reductions in Europe, Scotland came second only to Sweden that had a decline of 54.5% over the same period.


Aberdeen—According to the Aberdeen Council, the city has reduced its carbon emissions and is committed to continue doing so in different ways. Earlier this year, Aberdeen became the first city in Western Europe to have hydrogen-powered cars for public use on a pay-as-you-go basis. This is part of the “City Council’s next step in expanding hydrogen infrastructure in the city”. This comes a year after the city got a fleet of hydrogen buses that replaced 10 diesel fuelled buses as part of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project. The fleet travelled about 250,000 miles in the past year without releasing any harmful emissions during its 1,600 refuels. The buses have also proven to be four times more efficient than diesel engines of the same kind. The Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project is part of the H2 Aberdeen initiative which is enabling development and deployment of additional hydrogen infrastructure and vehicles.

Bristol—Bristol was the first city in the UK to be granted a European Green Capital in 2015. It was also the second Greenest City in the World the same year. With more cyclists than any other city in the UK and the lowest carbon emissions of any major UK city, it has continued to put more efforts into reducing its carbon emissions. Like Aberdeen, Bristol has also introduced a new fleet of 20 low carbon buses which are fitted with the latest Euro VI engines. The engines produce 95% less oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions. They also have start-stop technology which cuts out the engine when a bus is stationary.
Glasgow was coined one of the global top 25 cities for environmental sustainability. Glasgow city council has partnered with a number of businesses on different sustainable projects that provide jobs and create green capital growth. Some past initiatives include funding for 10,000 LED street light replacements and funding for renewable projects. One such project diverts over 90% residual waste from landfill into an energy-waste-facility. Both projects have been in partnership with businesses.


Scottish Cities Alliance—Scottish Cities Alliance is a collaboration of Scotland’s seven cities. Its goal is to achieve a stronger economic future for Scotland through a joint effort. The Alliance’s other goal is to drive the agenda for a low carbon future forward in order to help reduce the impact of climate change as well as ensure the future economic prosperity of Scotland.

Website: http://www.scottishcities.org.uk/about-us

Climate UK—Climate UK is a not for profit organization that describes itself as the national face of local climate action. It is made up of a network of organizations as well as individuals supporting local action in the devolved UK countries.  It works to facilitate a bottom up nationwide response to climate change by uniting knowledge and technical expertise from every part of the UK to tackle the challenges and opportunities faced.

Website: http://climateuk.net/content/about-us

Core Cities—Core Cities describe themselves as a unique and united local authority voice that promotes the role of its cities in driving economic growth and the case for city devolution. Represented in this group are the councils of England’s eight largest city economies outside London: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. Glasgow and Cardiff are also part of this group. They are not necessarily focused on climate change, but that is one of the functions.

Website: https://www.corecities.com/  

Covenant of Mayors—Formed in 2008 by the European Union, the Covenant of Mayors is a European movement that involves both local and regional authorities who voluntarily commit to increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in their respective regions. Signatories to this movement abide by the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their states by at least 20% by 2020. Thirty of the UK’s cities including Aberdeen and Bristol are members of this movement.

Website:  http://www.covenantofmayors.eu/about/covenant-of-mayors_en.html

The Under2 MOU—The Under2 MOU is a pledge by sub-national governments to reduce their carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. The core to this pledge is the commitment by all the parties to reduce their emissions by 80-95% from 1990 levels by 2050. The 165 jurisdictions that represent 33 countries and six continents that have signed the MOU are collectively referred to as the Under2 Coalition. The UK members of the Coalition include Scotland, Wales, Greater Manchester City and Bristol City.

Website: http://under2mou.org/the-mou/

Learn More

For more on how Scotland met its emissions target see: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/14/scotland-beats-climate-emissions-reductions-target-six-years-early

Could be useful. http://www.ukgbc.org/resources/blog/global-cities-set-pace

For more on Scotland’s carbon emission reductions see: https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/pipe/news/scotland/scotland-second-to-sweden-in-reducing-greenhouse-gas-emissions-in-western-europe/

Convent of Mayors- http://www.covenantofmayors.eu/about/covenant-of-mayors_en.html

See UK’s greenest here: http://www.mcleanross.com/blog/what-are-the-greenest-cities-in-the-uk–blog-61919161858

For more on Aberdeen’s investment into cycling infrastructure: https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/fp/news/local/council-cycling-spend-to-pass-6m-by-tax-year-end/

How businesses play a role in low carbon cities: http://www.edie.net/news/6/Businesses-will-play-a-crucial-role-in-the-transition-to-low-carbon-cities/

For more on Aberdeen’s hydrogen buses: http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_h2busanniversary_110316.asp

United Kingdom Leaders and Opponents

Government Official
Ed Miliband
Parliamentary House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Ed Miliband, who is former Labour Party leader, is currently the MP for Doncaster North. He was also the first ever Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which is now the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It was during his leadership of DECC that he championed the Climate Change bill that became the Climate Change Act of 2008. The Act was passed in parliament by an overwhelming cross-party majority. Mr Miliband criticised the merging of the DECC with the business department stating that this would lead to reduced priority on climate change issues as the name of the department shows its priorities. His work on climate change issues has continued even after stepping down as Labour leader where he focused his strength on forming a coalition that would push for much stronger environmental policies. He has strongly encouraged the government to ratify the Agreement. He has also been advocating for the UK to be the first country in the world to pass a law that reduces net carbon emissions to zero. This would go to 100% reduction, more ambitious than the current UK emissions targets of 80% by 2050.

Contact: ed.miliband.mp@parliament.uk

Climate Program Advocate
Greg Clark
Parliamentary House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Greg Clark is a Member of Parliament for Tunbridge Wells constituency. He was formerly the appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in 2008 and after that he was Minister of Cities. He is known for being a champion of sustainability issues. During his term as Shadow Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, he was in charge of two “landmark” papers on climate change that would set out how the government would make Britain a leader in low carbon economy. As Minister of Cities, he continued championing the low carbon economy across cities in the UK. Greg Clark is now the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He assumed this position in July 2016 after this department was formed by merging the department of energy and the department of business. Even though climate is no longer a part of the name of the department, climate issues still fall under this department.

Contact: gregclarkmp@parliament.uk

Climate Program Opponent
Nigel Lawson
Parliamentary House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW

Nigel Lawson was Member of Parliament for the constituency of Dalby from 1974 to 1992 when he retired. He currently sits in the House of Lords. Lord Lawson, who is coined as one of the leading climate change skeptics in the UK, is also the founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He launched the foundation together with Dr. Benny Peiser in the House of Lords in 2009—in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit. The Global Warming Policy Foundation is a think tank that is concerned about costs and other implications of many of the climate policies presently being advocated for. The organization claims to encourage a balanced coverage of climate change issues by the media and has (in their words), “created a popular website that is subjecting climate policies and claims by governments and campaigners to dispassionate analysis based on hard evidence and economic rigour”.

Contact:  contactholmember@parliament.uk

Learn More

For more on Ed Miliband’s biography see: http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/edward-miliband/1510

See article for more on Ed Miliband’s call for net zero emissions: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/06/ed-miliband-calls-for-law-co2-emissions-target-legally-binding-paris-climate-talks

More on Ed Miliband and ratification of Paris Agreement: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36654281

For more on Ed Miliband’s position of formation of Department of BEIS: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/theresa-may-stupid-to-abolish-department-of-energy-and-climate-change_uk_5787b1cde4b0f4bc5946cde6

More on Greg Clark’s biography: https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/Greg-Clark/1578

More on Greg Clark and low carbon cities: http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/climate-leader-interviews/greg_clark_minister_for_cities_in_the_uk_is_championing_the_low_carbon_econ

For more about the Global Warming Policy Foundation see: http://www.thegwpf.org/who-we-are/

For More on Nigel Lawson’s biography see: https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-lawson-of-blaby/1039

United Kingdom Leading Research Study

Research Study: “The compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets”, UK’s Committee on Climate Change, 2016

This report is by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent statutory body that was set up in accordance with the Climate Change Act of 2008. It was established in order to advise the UK Government and its Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.

The study, whose findings were presented to parliament in March, 2016 looked at the compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets. The carbon budgets help to put a limit on the amount of carbon emissions that can be produced in the UK within a five-year period. The CCC report mainly focused on shale gas rather than onshore petroleum. According to the CCC, onshore petroleum exploitation scale could require putting up a dedicated regulatory body as well as putting in place a strong regulatory framework. They found that the exploitation of shale gas particularly by fracking, is not compatible with UK climate targets unless three tests were met.

The first test includes having well development, production, and emissions from decommissioning closely regulated. Without regulation, carbon emissions from the shale gas production could be substantial.

The second test is that gas consumption must remain in line with the carbon budget. The UK currently imports about half of its gas supplies, mainly via pipeline from Norway and through liquefied natural gas tankers (LNG). Carbon budgets can be met in various ways including balancing the emissions from fossils and using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Generally, however, they require that persistent consumption of all fossil fuels without CCS decline overtime.

The third test is allowing for shale gas production emissions in the carbon budgets. This might cause an increase in these budgets. Production of shale gas domestically would lead to more emissions for the UK even if gas consumption is not affected and production related emissions are strictly limited through tight regulation and monitoring. However, according to the report the size of the additional emissions depends on the size of the industry, which is surrounded by huge uncertainty.

The government agreed with the findings of the CCC. They also stated that they would meet the three tests and that there would not be any need for further regulation as the regulation currently in place was sufficient. The government in their response also stated that they would call on the CCC to advise regarding this issue when need arises.

This study is important because it provides advice to parliament on exploitation of petroleum, a fossil fuel. As the UK currently imports the majority of its gas, ensuring energy security for the country is an important issue. However, because the UK has a strong stand against climate change and towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it would have to consider and understand the impacts that domestic production of petroleum would have on meeting its emissions targets. This report provides that guidance and enables the government to make informed decisions with regard to petroleum exploitation and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. However, in light of the more ambitious Paris Agreement, it will be interesting to see if the UK’s future carbon budgets will be adjusted.

Learn More

See the ‘The compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets’, 2016 by UK’s Committee on Climate Change: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CCC-Compatibility-of-onshore-petroleum-with-meeting-UK-carbon-budgets.pdf

Read more about the Committee on Climate Change: https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/

For more information on UK government’s position on petroleum and onshore exploitation see: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535208/CCC_Response_new_template_FINAL.pdf

United Kingdom Emissions Reduction Policy

United Kingdom: The Climate Change Act, The Renewable Obligations Policy

The UK has a very strong stand against climate change and towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This was demonstrated by developing and adopting the Climate Change Act in 2008. The Act is the world’s first legally binding commitment to cutting national greenhouse gas emissions. It was passed with an overwhelming cross-party majority of 463 to 3. Under this Act, the UK aims to reduce emissions by a minimum of 80% by 2050 (from 1990 levels). It does so through carbon budgets that it is bound to review every five years in order to establish its progress towards meeting the 80% reduction. [1] The UK also took strong leadership and played a role in drafting the ambitious Paris Agreement which follows the UK’s own Climate Change Act.

The UK, since coming up with the Climate Change Act, has come up with Carbon Budgets which are reviewed every five years. The budgets place caps on the amount of carbon emissions the country can produce within each five-year period and this helps it towards achieving its emissions targets. The carbon budgets and their target emissions are proposed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that is an independent statutory body. The governments of the devolved administrations in turn draw associated policies to cut down emissions in various sectors that would help meet the reductions target [8]. For instance, the targets for the first (which run from 2008-2012) and second carbon budgets (which runs from 2013-2017) were to reduce emissions by 3,018 MtCO2e (23%) and 2,782 MtCO2e (29%) respectively [8].

Policy measures in the UK largely focus on the energy sector and in particular, electricity. [1] This is because the energy sector is the largest source of emissions. [3] However, according to the CCC progress report, there is need for reduction in emissions in other sectors as well. A review of the UK’s progress for 2015 towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions found that it has made progress in reducing its emissions and that this has largely been in the energy sector, which had previously been a large contributor of carbon emissions since the carbon budgets were put in place. In 2015, the emissions had fallen by 3% compared to 2014 and to below 38% of the 1990 levels. This reduction has been attributed to increase in low-carbon electricity generation that displaced fossil fuels (largely coal). [2]

Policies towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions have largely been influenced by the EU agreements. For instance, the UK’s aim to generate 30% of its electricity from renewable energy has been influenced by its need to meet its EU target of 15 % by 2020 in accordance with the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). [3] [4] This has seen a number of subsidies to encourage renewable energy generation.

The UK has several policies that work towards the reduction of greenhouse gases, among them, the Renewable Obligations (RO) is a “support scheme” for renewable energy projects (electricity). The policy was introduced in 2002 in England, Wales and Scotland and in 2005 in Northern Ireland. [7] [10] It was enacted into the national legislature after it was passed by parliament. [6] RO puts an obligation on UK energy (electricity) suppliers to obtain a growing proportion of their electricity from renewable energy sources. [5] They do this by buying Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) from electricity generators (one ROC issued for each MWh) along with the electricity. The ROC serves as proof of compliance where the lack of compliance leads to fines. The value of the certificates has been fluctuating with electricity generators tending to be paid a premium of up to 50% higher than the wholesale price. Electricity suppliers make up for the difference by passing down this cost to their consumers. [11]

Tracking the UK’s progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions is done by the CCC which produces annual reports. The committee uses indicators to determine this progress. For the power sector above, “indicators cover the overall policy framework, deployment of low-carbon capacity (renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage) and the infrastructure required to support a low-carbon power sector (e.g. interconnection)”. [1]

The RO will be replaced by another policy, the Contract for Difference (CfD) which will, unlike the RO, include nuclear energy as well, and have a lower cost on the consumer. It will do so by placing a cap or limit on the amount of money that consumers pay for low carbon energy. It requires that electricity generators pay money back to the consumers when electricity prices are high. [9] Countries with similar policy mechanisms include the US, China, Italy and Sweden.

Learn More

[1] http://eciu.net/briefings/uk-energy-policies-and-prices/how-is-the-uk-tackling-climate-change
[2] https://documents.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-CCC-Progress-Report.pdf
[3] http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/energy-industry/electricity-generation.html
[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_da  ta/file/547977/Chapter_6_web.pdf
[5] www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn05870.pdf
[6] https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=1136558608
[7] https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=0215545362
[8] https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/reducing-carbon-emissions/carbon-budgets-and-targets/
[9] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/233004/EMR__Contract_for_Difference__Contract_and_Allocation_Overview_Final_28_August.pdf

United Kingdom Energy Production Trends

How The Energy System Is Structured

There are several authorities in the UK that are responsible for regulating the energy sector.  One of these is The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, also known as OfGem. It operates as a non-ministerial government department and its main responsibility is to protect the consumer. It is also responsible for rolling out various government initiatives and regulations into the industry. OfGem is governed by The Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (GEMA), an independent regulator. its main function is to regulate the energy sector in the UK. The Health and Safety Executive is an independent national regulator that is responsible for regulating and enforcing health and safety in the workplace in Great Britain. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), an agency of the HSE, has the responsibility of regulating the nuclear energy sector. Finally, the Environmental Agency is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the environment as well as encouraging sustainable development in England. Before Brexit, the government’s role in the energy sector with regards energy regulation was to make decisions, set policy and implement legislation affecting the sector. This was done through the Secretary of State who headed the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Sources of Energy

Energy used in the UK is generated from a number of different sources including fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy sources. In 2013, most of the energy used came from fossil fuels with 86%, and of these, coal contributed the largest with 34%. This was followed by nuclear energy which was 19% and the least energy source used came from hydro with under 1%.


Figure 1: Primary energy supply for UK 2013 (in Ktoe). Data from IEA

Profiles of Leading Energy Companies

Until the 1980’s, the UK’s energy sector (electricity and gas) was government owned and controlled. Reforms introduced during the 1980’s saw the initial privatisation of British Gas, while the privatisation and liberalisation of the electricity sector started in the 1990s. The energy sector is currently private owned.

The energy industry in the UK is complex with different companies playing different roles from production to distribution. For instance, energy generators may not be the same as the energy suppliers or distributors. However, the largest energy suppliers in the UK, also known as the Big Six, are sometimes involved in two or all three of these activities even though they are more involved in energy supply. The Big Six include British Gas, EDF, E. ON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE.

Even though British Gas is the largest supplier of energy in the UK supplying over 11 million homes with gas and 6 million with electricity, EDF (Electricity of France) is the largest electricity generator in the UK with eight nuclear power stations. It produces 20% of UK’s energy (electricity) and it is also the largest producer of low carbon energy. EDF Energy is a subsidiary of EDF Group, one of Europe’s largest energy groups. It is exclusively owned by French national provider EDF S.A., and it supplies power to over 5 million homes and businesses. Apart from low carbon energy, EDF also produces energy from coal and gas.

SSE formerly Scottish and Southern Energy, is a Scottish registered company and is a major producer of wind and hydro energy. It is also the largest producer of renewable energy and the second largest energy supplier in the UK supplying almost 9 million customers which include residential and business customers. SSE was formed in 1998 when Scottish Hydro Electric and Southern Electric merged. Like EDF, SSE’s energy portfolio includes non-renewable energy; coal and gas.

In view of the strong stand that the UK has taken on climate change and against reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy producing companies have also welcomed this move and are working towards reducing their carbon emissions. For instance, EDF aims to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions from its power (electricity) production to less than a 100g of carbon dioxide per kWh by 2030. The most recent information on carbon emissions from electricity generation for the year 2015 was that EDF produced 203g of carbon dioxide per kWh. It plans to make this reduction by investing in nuclear energy technologies and encouraging its customers to use energy from these sources. SSE on the other hand is working on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy and associated products that it is also encouraging its customers to use.

The UK has in its efforts to decarbonise come up with a number of policies including subsidies to encourage production of renewable and low carbon energy. These have played a part in the kind of investments that energy generators have made. For EDF, subsidy called the ‘Contract for Difference’ has enabled them to be able to be able to be on the brink of embarking on constructing a new nuclear power plant which is expected to power about 6 million homes. This will be the first power station to be built in the UK for over two decades. A decision is yet to be made on whether or not to go ahead with construction and this project has been criticised and deemed unnecessary by some.

On the other hand, SSE scrapped off its plans to invest in four major offshore wind projects worth £20 billion pounds and questioned the viability of the offshore wind sector two years ago. The reasons stated were the high building costs and limited subsidies. However, recently when the government suspended their subsidies on onshore wind farms, SSE declared offshore wind “back on its agenda”. The government also announced that they had secured funding for three further rounds of subsidy contracts. This has put onshore wind projects, some of which were already in motion at a disadvantage. It, however is a positive thing for offshore wind sector. This shows how policies can impact on the type of investment decisions that energy companies make.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Fridah Siyanga-Tembo

United Kingdom Emission Reduction Challenges

Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Problems implementing existing climate change policies


Current Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels

The UK’s level of greenhouse gases has been on the downward trend. Available statistics for the first quarter of 2016 show that the level of greenhouse gas emissions is decreasing. A report produced by UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change show that the total greenhouse gases reduced from 495.212.2 MtCO2e in the last quarter of 2015 to 483.012.2 12.2 MtCO2e in the first quarter of 2016 which is a 2.5% difference. This reduction has been attributed to the reduction in the use of coal for electricity generation in the first quarter of 2016.


Emission Reduction Challenges

The UK seems to be on the right track in reducing its level of greenhouse gas emissions. This has been accompanied by setting ambitious targets and adopting its Climate Change Act. However, if the UK does go ahead with onshore petroleum and gas exploitation, this could hamper the current efforts being made towards reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC)’s report states that onshore petroleum and gas exploitation on a large scale is not compatible with UK’s carbon budgets unless it meets three tests. These tests include tight regulation and close monitoring of emissions, keeping gas consumption within the carbon budget requirement and accommodating shale gas emissions in the carbon budgets.

Onshore petroleum and shale gas exploitation is being considered by the UK as an option for reducing oil imports and meeting its carbon budgets. For shale gas in particular, the government believes that it can be a bridge in electricity generation as the country moves away from coal generation towards energy efficiency, renewables and nuclear. They also believe that the three conditions stated in the CCC report will be met.

Another new challenge might arise from a plan being adopted to collapse the Department of Energy and Climate Change and incorporate them into the Business Department. This has been met with concerns that climate change may no longer be a priority. However, the Minister of the now Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has a track record of being a strong supporter of green issues. Hopefully, with this track record, climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will still remain a priority for the UK government.

–Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Fridah Siyanga-Tembo


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