Climate change in the United Kingdom

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Climate change in the United Kingdom describes the climate change related issues in the United Kingdom. This includes climate politics, contribution to global warming and the influence of the global warming in Europe. According to climate experts global temperature rise should not exceed 2 °C to prevent the most dangerous consequences of climate change. It is estimated to demand at least 80-85% emission reductions in the EU during 2008-2050 with reductions as soon as technically possible.[1] The UK Government has a commitment to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050 and by 50% on 1990 levels by 2025.


London Green500 is a programme to reduce the carbon emissions of the London city organisations including new building by 60% by 2025. Urban areas account for 75% of world CO2 emissions, but less than 1% of the Earth's surface.[2]


Annual spending on preparing the UK for the impacts of global warming fall from £29.1m in 2012-13 to £17.2m in 2013-14. Environment secretary, Owen Paterson is widely regarded as a climate change sceptic.[3]

Energy alternatives[edit]

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the RSPB The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds wrote in 2013: Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet? According to Princeton academic Timothy Searchinger the use of whole trees may increase greenhouse gas emissions by at least 49% compared to using coal over 40 years.[4]


There is in place national legislation, international agreements and the EU directives. The EU directive 2001/77/EU promotes renewable energy in the electricity production.

Stern report 2006[edit]

The British government and the economist Nicholas Stern published in 2006 the Stern report. The Review states that climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, presenting a unique challenge for economics. The Review provides prescriptions including environmental taxes to minimise economic and social disruptions. The Stern Review's main conclusion is that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs of not acting.[5] The Review points to the potential impacts of climate change on water resources, food production, health, and the environment. According to the Review, without action, the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever. Including a wider range of risks and impacts could increase this to 20% of GDP or more.

No-one can predict the consequences of climate change with complete certainty; but we now know enough to understand the risks. The review leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs.[6]


The global warming prediction in 1972 for year 2000 made by a British meteorologist born in 1916 was correct.[7]

Extreme weather[edit]


According to the Government the number of households in the flood risk will be up to 970,000 homes in the 2020s, up from around 370,000 in January 2012.[8]

Serious flooding in parts of the UK in January 2014 prompted the government to satellite imagery to help them respond to the problems caused by the stormy weather and natural disasters. In the end of 2013 in the UK affected Cyclone Dirk and St. Jude storm. Flood warnings were in place in Dorset, and lesser warnings in England, Scotland and Wales.[9] At least seven people died and more than 1,700 homes and businesses flooded in England in the period between Christmas and following the Epiphany (holiday) week.[10]

The Friends of the Earth criticised British government of the intended cuts to flood defence spending. The protection against increasing flood risk as a result of climate change requires rising investment. In 2009, the Environment Agency calculated that UK need to be spend £20m more compared to 2010-11 as the baseline, each and every year out to 2035, just to keep pace with climate change.[11]

According to the Met Office figures December 2013 and January 2014 combined were the wettest since records began in 1910. The effects of flooding and managing flood risk cost the country about £2.2bn a year, compared with the less than £1bn spent on flood protection and management.[12]

In February 2014 during the British flooding the Church of England said that it will pull its investments from companies that fail to do enough to fight the "great demon" of climate change and ignore the church's theological, moral and social priorities.[13]

EU energy plan 2008[edit]

At the end of 2008 the EU parliament approved the climate and energy plan including:[1] - 20% emission cut of climate gases from 1990 to 2020 - 20% increase in the share of renewable energy from 1990 to 2020 - 20% increase of the energy efficiency 20% from 1990 to 2020.


The in Feb 2014 published latest known emissions from the year 2012 were in total 581 MtCO2e and 7.7 tonnes per capita. CO2 emissions have reduced 17 % from 1990 to 2012 compared to 21 % in Germany.[14]

Import related emissions of the United Kingdom were 35% in 1992 and 67% in 2004. Consumer emissions have risen steadily over the period 1992-2004 and are in 2004 18% higher than in 1992, while the national total emissions reported to the UNFCCC in 1992-2004 have declined by 5%.[15]

The committee on climate change publish annual progress report in respect to control the climate change in the United Kingdom. Meeting future carbon budgets UK will require reducing emissions by at least 3% a year. According to the report in June 2013 emissions of greenhouse gases increased by 3.5% in 2012 due to cold winter compared to 2011 and coal in power generation. UK 594 MtCO2e emissions by sectors in 2011 were 24% power, 19% industry, 18% land transport, 14% buildings, ca 1% agriculture and % LULUCF and ca 1% aviation.[16] Emission increase was biggest in aviation: Air transport in the United Kingdom CO2 emissions increased from ca 17 MtCO2 in 1990 to 35 MtCO2 in 2011.[17][18]

Renewable energy[edit]

New wind power is expected to be installed 1-1.5 GW onshore and 1-2 GW offshore annually in 2008-2022.[18]

Figure 7 of the document show the UK target to increase the share of renewable energy from 2008 to 2020 and the increase in the energy efficiency.[19]


According to the government's climate advisers study in the end of 2013 Britain can save £85bn a year if it meets its carbon targets. Plan is to cut emissions by half in the mid-2020s. Less use of fossil fuels and increased energy efficiency reduce cost in air quality, health costs, energy bills, noise, wildlife, water, waste, traffic congestion and road accidents[20]


According to the Polluter pays principle the polluter has ecological and financial responsibility of the climate change consequenses. Climate change is caused cumulatively and today's emissions will have effects for decades forward. Thee are statistics both in total values and pro person.

Cumulative CO2 emissions, 1850–2007, per current inhabitant (tonnes CO2): 1) Luxembourg 1,429 2) UK 1,127 tonnes CO2 3) US 1,126 4) Belgium 1,026 5) Czech Republic 1,006 6) Germany 987 7) Estonia 877 8) Canada 779 9) Kazakhstan 682 10) Russia 666 11) Denmark 653 12) Bahrain 631 13) Kuwait 629 15) Australia 622 16) Poland 594 17) Qatar 584 18) Trinidad & Tobago 582 19) Slovakia 579 and 20) Netherlands 576 [21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ilmastonmuutos otettiin yhä vakavammin yle 30.12.2008 (Finnish)
  2. ^ London Green
  3. ^ UK climate change spend almost halved under Owen Paterson, figures reveal, Critics blame 'climate sceptic' environment secretary for drop in funding to prepare country for impacts of global warming The Guardian 27.1.2014
  4. ^ Dirtier than coal? Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet 2013
  5. ^ Stern, N. (2006). "Summary of Conclusions" (PDF). Executive summary (short). Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (pre-publication edition). HM Treasury. Retrieved 2011-04-28. 
  6. ^ Sir Nicholas Stern: Stern Review : The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary,10/2006
  7. ^ A remarkably accurate global warming prediction, made in 1972 2014
  8. ^ Government gambles by excluding climate change from flood insurance deal FOE 6 December 2013
  9. ^ UK floods prompt space charter activation BBC 7 January 2014
  10. ^ Severe weather warnings remain along UK coast The Guardian 7 January 2014
  11. ^ Cameron's claims on flood defences don't stack up FOE 6 January 2014
  12. ^ England's floods – everything you need to know The Guardian11 January 2014
  13. ^ Church of England vows to fight 'great demon' of climate change
  14. ^ Greenhouse gas emissions from the UK] the Guardian 18 February 2014
  15. ^ Kenen ilmasto Like Helsinki 2010: Ville Veikko Hirvelä: Päästöjä lisäävät päästövähennykset ja päästöjä aiheuttava kuluttaminen pages 35-39, ref Wiedmann, T., Wood, R., Lenzen, M., Minx, J., Guan, D. and Barrett, J. (2008) Development of an embedded carbon emissions indicator
  16. ^ UK Emissions by Sectors 2011
  17. ^ Aviation in UK June 2013
  18. ^ a b SUMMARY: Fifth statutory report to Parliament on progress towards meeting carbon budgets REPORT June 2013
  19. ^
  20. ^ Carbon targets can help UK 'save £85bn a year' The Guardian 11 December 2013
  21. ^ Which nations are really responsible for climate change - interactive map The Guardian 8.12.2011 (All goods and services consumed, source: Peters et al PNAS, 2011)