Climate change in the UK


(A windfarm in the UK, freeimageslive.co.uk – gratuit)

 

This is the first in a series of blog articles about climate change in different parts of the world. We will look at the causes, impacts and solutions being employed. This first article will focus on the UK, the nation that will be hosting COP26, and the focus of our first short film and resources.

A pair of swans take to the streets during flooding in Workington, Cumbria. Photo by Dave Wilson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/horrgakx/4121202341

The UK is a high-emitting country. It is the 17th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world (about 0.95%)[i], and the 4th largest in Europe (5.9%)[ii]. In 2018 it is estimated that the UK produced the equivalent of 479 Megatonnes of CO2 in emissions[iii].

  • The transport sector is the largest and most unchanging source of greenhouse emissions
  • The second largest source is the energy sector, although emissions have fallen in recent years due to switching to renewable and nuclear energy sources
  • The next largest sectors are from buildings and agriculture

 

While not as vulnerable as other parts of the world, the UK is still subject to some of the impacts of climate change. Flooding is the greatest impact, both in terms of damage to lives and property. Heat waves in summer are also becoming an increased risk. Both of these factors cause the greatest amount of harm in urban areas. Paved surfaces lead to a build up of water in floods, and absorb and retain heat during heatwaves. Lower-income areas are especially vulnerable as they don’t have the resources to adapt to subsequent events[iv].

 

Learn more about flooding in Cumbria in the north of England in this interview with Reverend Richard Teal, President of the Methodist Conference in Britain.

 

In 2008, the Climate Change act was introduced, which enshrined targets for the country’s emissions into law[v]. It also led to the creation of the Climate Change Committee (CCC)[vi], which sets carbon budgets and emissions targets. In 2008 the UK’s target was to reduce Greenhouse emissions to at least 80% bellow the 1990 baseline. This was since updated in 2019 to a goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050[vii].

As the hosts of COP26 it is hoped that the UK will use its position to encourage ambitious commitments for reducing emissions in other countries. However, the UK itself has yet to act strongly on its own ambitions – for instance, the government recently approved plans for a coal mine in Cumbria, although this has since been put under review and was widely criticised by Alok Sharma, the COP26 president.[viii]

Climate Justice for All also believes that the UK should be taking more steps to supporting adaptation efforts in vulnerable communities. In the coming months we will hear about the impacts of climate change from some of these countries and what needs to be done to support them.

 

[i] https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/12/interactive-chart-top-emitters

[ii] https://www.climatewatchdata.org/ghg-emissions?breakBy=countries&chartType=percentage&end_year=2018&gases=all-ghg&regions=ECA&sectors=total-including-lucf&source=CAIT&start_year=1990

[iii] https://www.climatewatchdata.org/ghg-emissions?breakBy=sector&chartType=area&end_year=2018&gases=all-ghg&regions=GBR&sectors=agriculture%2Cbunker-fuels%2Cindustrial-processes%2Cland-use-change-and-forestry%2Cwaste%2Cbuilding%2Celectricity-heat%2Cfugitive-emissions%2Cmanufacturing-construction%2Cother-fuel-combustion%2Ctransportation&source=CAIT&start_year=1990

[iv] https://www.climatejust.org.uk/

[v] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/27/contents

[vi] https://www.theccc.org.uk/

[vii] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/1056/contents/made

[viii] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-56364306