UK among best for tackling climate change

posted by Jonathan Owen
7 December 2018

Britain is one of the best performing countries in the world in transforming its energy system to tackle climate change, being second only to Denmark, according to research by Imperial College London.

The UK’s phasing out of coal, fuelled by carbon pricing, has been faster than any other country and has resulted in carbon emissions from Britain’s power system falling by more than twice as much as some other countries, a report said.

Researchers assessed 25 countries, covering 80% of the world’s population, on their performance in reducing the use of fossil fuels, developing clean power, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

The Energy Revolution: A Global Outlook report was launched at the UN climate change conference in Katowice, Poland.

Commissioned by the Drax Group, the report stated the UK is “world-leading in grid decarbonisation, reducing its carbon content by over 250g CO2/kWh in the last decade,” and has “seen the world’s fastest rate of phasing out coal power generation”.

But it warned: “The two notable let-downs are the UK’s high and growing subsidies for fossil fuels, and the lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) capacity.”

And the UK is “among the worst performers in supporting the fossil fuel industry through direct budgetary transfers and tax expenditures”.

Britain should “think more holistically about its policies that directly or indirectly support fossil fuels, as these are working against overall climate targets,” according to the report.

This comes as scientists at the Global Carbon Project warned that carbon dioxide emissions have risen by almost 3% [2.7%] globally in 2018 despite concern over climate change.

It marks the second year in a row in which the amount of pollution being put into the atmosphere has risen, after 2017 saw carbon emissions increase 1.6%.

Overall, carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry rose to 37.1bn tonnes in 2018, with a further 5bn tonnes from deforestation and other human activities, bringing the overall total to 41.5bn tonnes.

Lead researcher Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia, said: "We are seeing a strong growth of global carbon dioxide emissions once again. Emissions need to peak and rapidly decrease to address climate change. With this year's growth in emissions, it looks like the peak is not yet in sight.”

Other new research out this week claims that making North Sea oil last “an additional generation" is key to meeting the UK's climate change targets.

The report by Will Webster, energy policy manager at Oil & Gas UK, said the UK's “comparative advantage in offshore technology” should help form part of a long-term energy strategy, along with carbon capture projects and a focus on hydrogen power.

“Industry's ambition to add a generation of production to the UK North Sea and double the export opportunity for the supply chain is critical in achieving the balance between delivering our climate change targets and ensuring security of energy supply,” Webster said.

Commenting on the report, Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Government’s energy minister, said: “With up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining, the sector could continue production for the next 20 years, which will ensure continued security of supply to meet domestic demand.”

He added: “Maintaining domestic oil and gas production can lead to lower net global emissions than under a scenario where Scotland depends increasingly on imports.”

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