Climate policy

Analysis: UK carbon emissions fell 9% in 2014

  • 04 Mar 2015, 00:01
  • Simon Evans

UK carbon dioxide emissions fell by more than nine per cent in 2014 year-on-year, according to Carbon Brief analysis of newly released government energy data.

A 20 per cent reduction in coal use and record warm temperatures both contributed to the decline in emissions. Continued falls in energy use were also a factor.

The estimated 9.2 per cent fall in UK carbon emissions is the second largest year-on-year reduction since 1990. Only 2009, when the economy collapsed following the global financial crisis, had a larger reduction of 9.5 per cent.

The Carbon Brief emissions estimate is based on analysis of preliminary energy use data for 2014, published on 26 February by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Estimates for previous years using the same method are accurate to within half a percentage point, as the table below shows.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 At 17.14.01

Source: Carbon Brief analysis of DECC energy and emissions data.

A 9.2 per cent reduction would leave UK emissions 28 per cent below 1990 levels, at 429 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The UK is aiming to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and cut them by 80 per cent by 2050, both against 1990 levels.

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How the EU's evolving Energy Union reveals underlying politics

  • 25 Feb 2015, 16:15
  • Simon Evans

Europe's energy system needs to be fundamentally transformed, shifting away from reliance on fossil fuels, according to the European Commission's proposals for an energy union.

A framework strategy for the energy union, published today, explains how the commission plans to achieve this transformation. The strategy attempts to create a coherent vision by synthesising all existing EU policies on climate and energy with a number of new initiatives.

Reactions so far suggest this synthesis has only been partially successful. Legal NGO ClientEarth says the strategy lacks clear rules on how EU targets will be met. Thinktank E3G says the strategy is "good on vision, but deeply confused on delivery priorities". NGO Greenpeace says the plan is "contradictory" and lacks coherence, while WWF says it has "blind spots".

Carbon Brief explains where the idea of an energy union came from and shows how the strategy text has evolved through several drafts, revealing evidence of the differing political priorities that have challenged creation of a clear and coherent strategy.

It's important to note that the commission proposal will be discussed by member state governments at meetings in March, April and June. They could propose further changes.

Moving on from Tusk's energy security union

The idea of an energy union was first proposed by European Council president and former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk in an April 2014 article for the Financial Times. Tusk's proposal emphasised energy security above all.

It called for region-wide purchasing of gas, linking and strengthening the EU's electricity transmission systems, and making "full use" of EU fossil fuel reserves, including coal and shale gas.

Earlier this month, Carbon Brief produced a detailed energy union briefing based on a leaked draft strategy dated 30 January. The briefing explained how Tusk's proposal had been transformed into a more holistic strategy with five "dimensions": integrated energy markets, a new deal for energy consumers, energy efficiency, decarbonising the economy and research.

Since then, a second draft was widely leaked, including to Carbon Brief. This draft shifted emphasis in a number of key areas while the final version moves things on again. So, how has the energy union evolved in recent weeks?

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MEPs vote for early EU carbon market fix

  • 24 Feb 2015, 16:15
  • Simon Evans

An early and ambitious fix to the European Union's emissions trading scheme (ETS) has been backed by the European Parliament's environment committee in a vote today.

The ETS is central to the EU's efforts to tackle climate change, but has been suffering from  chronically low prices that are insufficient to drive low-carbon investments.

To fix the market, the European Commission had proposed reforms starting in 2021, designed to reduce a surplus of two billion carbon credits on the market which have caused low prices.

Today's parliamentary vote backs earlier implementation of the reforms, starting in 2018, and contains additional measures to tackle surplus allowances.

Analysts say the reforms could see EU carbon prices more than double by 2020, to between €17 and €35 per tonne. Member states must still back any reforms to the ETS, however.

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