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The United Kingdom Energy and Emissions


The United Kingdom (UK), which is an industrialised country, has been a great contributor to the emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). The processes that lead to such emissions include the extraction of coal, gas, and oil, as well as the transportation industry. The transport industry is one of the main consumers of energy. It is also one of the greatest emitters of GHG. GHG has been proven to have an adverse effect on the climate. The gases have been credited for climate change in the past and the inevitable future climate change. There is a great need for fuel in the UK. The demand keeps on rising. At the same time, the fuel industry is a great component of the country’s economy. Therefore, although the extraction of the fuels leads to the emission of gases, it is not possible for the country to stop pumping the fuels at once. The change in climate alongside the advantages of fuel extraction have led to the need of coming up with directives and legislations to govern the emission of GHG. This paper analyses the impacts of fuel extraction and the legislations governing gas emissions.

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Current Emissions and their Implications

The global energy market is transforming. Since the 1970s, the UK energy transformed expressively from solid fuels to gas. Solids fuels have reduced from 45.0 Mtoe to 2.6 Mtoe while gas energy increased from 14.4 Mtoe in 1970 to 40.2 Mtoe as per the 2014 records. According to statistics collected between January and March 2015, 25% of the UK energy is supplied by gas, with natural gas as the dominant source, 31 percent comes from coal, nuclear energy caters from 19.1% while renewable energy accounts for 22.3%. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, only about 2% of the energy is supplied by oil and other sources.1

Household consumption of gas is also high, with an estimated 85 % of homes in the UK using heated gas. Industrial heat accounts for about 20 percent of the UK energy. The consumption of energy in 2014 was recorded at 142.8 Mtoe, with transport and domestic segments having the largest consumption rate. Petroleum liquids and natural were the most used sources of energy. The high consumption of energy resulted in 568.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2e) of emissions. This amount is a significant contribution to global warming. Moreover, while the demand for energy is increasing, the available domestic sources are diminishing. As a result, as Allen, Varga, Strathern, Savill, and Fletcher reveal, investing in unconventional sources of energy has become a viable option, despite the existing controversies.2

The extraction of unconventional oil deposits has caused continuous debates among environmentalists and government agencies. In particular, the extraction method namely, hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking, has been termed to be unfriendly to the ecosystem. Fracking refers to pumping out oil or natural gas that is available in unconventional areas such as shale formations. The extraction process involves using water, tracers, chemicals, and proppants, which pose a risk to the environment. This source of energy is unusual because oil cannot be retrieved via the normal extraction techniques. Before commencing any extraction project, the extractors have to get a licence from the relevant agencies such as the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).3

Fracking is a key issue, particularly at a time when climate change is a newsworthy issue. The UK government is implementing policies to reduce emissions of GHG. The temptation to invest heavily in unconventional gas is connected to its economic benefits. It promises to increase tax revenue while ensuring a steady supply of energy. Conversely, concerns are rising on the negatives such as health and ecological effects of the source of energy. In fact, the unremitting opposition to shale gas has caused a significant barrier to the exploitation of the oil available in the unconventional sources. Moreover, according to Hitchin, the social disapproval of the fracking implies that there is no social permit to initiate any unconventional oil extraction.4

Among the major issues raised in relation to fracking include water contamination, increased tremors such as those witnessed in Blackpool, and air pollution. The gases emitted during the extraction of shale gas interfere with the targets that the UK sets to meet at given intervals. Despite the looming danger of shale gas extraction, the current legislation seems not to avert it. If robust control measures can be introduced, the threats posed by fracking could be controlled.5 The state has maintained that the existing laws that govern the traditional oil pumping methods are sufficient to regulate fracking. Nonetheless, it is obvious that such laws were enacted with a focus on conventional oil and gas extraction. Subsequently, the applications of the laws on franking suffer some gaps, which may stall the efforts to decreasing the production of GHG. Moreover, the failure to control unconventional oil extraction is also connected to the existing inadequate experience among regulators. The implications of existing gaps to the UKs efforts of creating a low carbon future are negative and hence the need to review the existing laws. 6

Fossil fuels cause about a third of GHG in the UK. Coal emits about twice the carbon dioxide produced by gas. It harms the efforts of lowering carbon emission in the UK. According to Lawson, the fluctuation of coal and gas in the fuel mix has been the core cause of yearly fluctuation of carbon emissions.7 While fossil fuels have been a major source of energy in the UK, clean energy is becoming a preferable source of energy, as people understand the need to protect the ecosystem. The usage of nuclear power and renewable energy such as solar and wind is increasing at a significant pace. In 2014, clean energy contributed about 7 percent of the UK’s energy supply. It is projected that the current carbon emission will continue fading as the government works towards its decarburisation objective of 2030. According to the Energy and Climate Intelligent Unit, the use of coal as a source of fuel is expected to become extinct by mid-2020s when gas will take over.8

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Conversely, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has also reported that an increased reduction of carbon emission is set to affect the prices of energy. Since 2004, the cost of energy has been on the rise among household, commercial, as well as industrial consumers in UK. So far, the increase has been influenced largely by other factors other than low-carbon policies. For instance, the escalation of household energy was triggered by the global upsurge in the cost of gas and electricity. As the efforts to lower carbon emission persist, its impact will become more apparent on energy bills. The CCC approximates that the average annual household will increase to £100 by 2020. However, the cost may be reduced if energy resources become more accessible. Consequently, this case implies that controlling household energy bills can be achieved if the government establishes laws to support the savings.

The EU and UK Legislations on Climate Change

The EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) came into force in 2005. It accounts for about 30% of all GHG emissions in the EU. It is the main policy formulated by the EU to deal with emissions. Directive 2003/87/EC establishes a scheme for GHG emission allowance trading within the EU with the objective of cutting on the emissions in a manner that is least likely to lead to an economic crisis in its member states. In the Arcelor case, it is referred to as one of the cornerstones of Community Environmental Protection Policy. The Kyoto protocol was adopted in December 1997 in Japan. It shares the main objectives of the UNFCCC, but differs on the point that while the convention is in support of industrialised nations stabilising their emissions, the protocol commits them to do so. As Çetintaş and Sarikaya reveal, the protocol, which came into force in 2005, places a greater burden in dealing with emissions on the more industrialised countries since they are most responsible for the emissions in the first place. 9

The protocol uses three main mechanisms to attain its objective of emission reduction. The mechanisms include emissions trading, joint implementation (JI), and the clean development mechanism (CDM). The clean development approach and the joint implementation are the two project-focused methods that supply the carbon bazaar. Joint implementation allows an industrialised country to implement projects with other equally developed countries. On the other hand, CDM refers to investing in sustainable development projects whose aim is to reduce emissions in developing countries. CDM has proven very productive, with tones of gas emissions being reduced in the UK. Under the Kyoto Protocol, accurate monitoring and the actual records have to be kept by countries on their GHG emissions. The UFCCC system has also played a great role in supporting CDM in the UK. The Kyoto Protocol and the convention are aimed at helping countries to adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change while assisting in adopting ways of increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change. This requirement has led to the formation of the adaptation fund to help signatories of the protocol in financing adaptation projects. Finances for the fund come from CDM projects.10

The UK has been a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol since 1995. Thus, its government has taken several measures to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases through the enactment of legally binding initiatives for the present and the future. The Climate Change Act of 2008 was put in place in 2008. It was passed to set up a framework to develop a means of reducing emissions in the most economically viable manner. The Act encompasses several targets. One of them is the 2050 target where 80% emissions reduction is expected measured from 1990. According to Hafez, the target is based on the recommendation outlined in the CCC report, which advises on building a low-carbon economy.11 Around 20% of the total emissions in the UK come from the GHG emissions from the DAs. The 80% target includes the reduction of these gases. Another component of the Act is the carbon budget. According to the Act, the government has been tasked with setting legally binding carbon budgets. A carbon budget refers to a limit on the level of GHG released in the UK over a period of five years.12

The concerned committee sets recommendations on the appropriate standard of carbon budget that would be efficient in reducing the emissions while still putting the economic implications into consideration. The first standard of such carbon budgets have already been legislated. They are applicable up to 2027. The climate change committee was set up to provide advice to the government on the appropriate targets in relation to emissions. The committee is also tasked with reporting to the parliament on the progress made in the reduction of GHG. The committee has the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) whose task is to evaluate and give recommendations to the government on the effective adaptation to climate change. A National Adaptation Plan is another feature of the Act. It requires the government to assess the risk that the UK suffers from climate change. The plan also requires the government to prepare a strategy to deal with such risks while inspiring crucial organisations to join in providing solutions.

The economy is at the heart of climate change, its prevention, and strategies to prepare for it. Thus, many government departments take part in the formulation of climate change policies. However, two main departments have been tasked with the formulation of these policies. One of them is the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It is at the forefront of championing the UK’s reduction of emissions. Thus, it is responsible for providing the UK with safe energy while instigating action for the achievement of climate change prevention through GHG emissions. The other concerned body is the Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs (DERA). Its main role is to champion the UK domestic adaptation policy. Its task is to set up a National Adaptation Programme (NAP) to deal with the dangers outlined in the initial Climate Change Risk Assessment. The government in the devolved administration (DAs) is also crucial to the formulation of climate change policy in the devolved levels in terms of policy, as well as the implementation of the nationwide policies. The DAs have not only been covered in the Climate Change Act. They have also been formulating their policies.

The EIA Directive is one of the main EU legislations on the environment that has influenced project development in the greatest way. The directive requires thorough assessment of the environmental impacts that the project may have on various sectors. The directive purposes to ensure that planning and project developers consider environmental implication before commencing a project. This process has been of great help to the UK in meeting the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol and other related legislations. This goal is achieved by including measures that are least likely to go against the projections set in the carbon budgets. The downside to the EIA process is that it is procedural and non-substantive. Countries have the choice to proceed with a project, despite the findings from the process. Therefore, the EIA is only a part of the decision-making process, but not a final determinant. However, according to Gore, this case does not render it useless because countries that wish to reduce the emission can use it as a useful tool for monitoring emissions as required by the Kyoto Protocol.13

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The EU Directive 2003/87/EC aims to bring about great reductions in GHG emissions with the ultimate goal of minimising the effects of such emissions on the climate. Starting from 1st January 2005, in accordance with the legislation, all industries that led to the emission of GHG were required to possess the appropriate permits to undertake the activity, including the mining of gas, oil, and coal. The permits are required to have a description of the activities of the industry, as well as the technology used to accomplish their goals. They are also required to outline the materials they use that are likely to emit GHG and the steps taken to observe and report gas emissions. The industries are only granted permits on proving that they are capable of effectively monitoring and reporting their emission. The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by the UK committed it to reducing GHG emission. This Directive by the establishment of a GHG emission allowances market is helpful to the effective accomplishment of the goals set out in the modus operandi while balancing it against economic and employment factors. In 2007, the European Council approved a target that required the reduction of GHG emissions by 30% starting from 1990. Thus, as Laing, Sato, and Grubb assert, the UK is committed to making a 20% cut on its emissions before then.14

Directive 2009/28/EC promotes the use of energy derived from renewable sources. The regulation of energy consumption in the European countries together with the increase in the use of renewable energy form a significant part of the package of the steps to reduce GHG emission in compliance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, as well as other climate change commitments. The factors not only affect energy supply security but also innovation, employment, and technological development. The directive acknowledges the importance of the improvement of energy efficiency in achieving the 20% emissions cut by 2020. Together with other related legislations, these procedures play a crucial role in achieving the energy-related objectives in the most economically viable way. Energy saving and efficiency policies are some of the most fruitful ways for the UK and other EU members to increase their share of energy derived from renewable sources. The ruling requires the EU member states to make noticeable enhancements in energy efficiency in all sectors to make their renewable energy sources targets easier to achieve by having the cutback reflected in the gross nationwide reduction.

The transport sector has a mandatory reduction target of 10% set by the decree for each member state. Thus, the need for energy efficiency in this sector is paramount, especially with the rise in demand for transport energy. The same directive advises that each member state should work towards an indicative trajectory towards the final target to meet the mandatory national targets. Such frameworks may include setting sectoral targets for various departments. Decision 280/2004/EC is a mechanism for monitoring GHG emission in line with the Kyoto Protocol implementation in the EU. It replaced the 1993 mechanism for monitoring and creating reports on GHG emissions by sinks. The new mechanism paves way for more regular and accurate evaluation of progress, as well as compliance with the requirements set out in the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC. The Biomass Action Plan was aimed at increasing the use of biomass in the production of energy for purposes such as electricity, heat, and transport.15


The extraction of fuel from non-renewable sources is inescapable in the UK. Despite its implication on the climate, it cannot be stopped abruptly because such drastic steps will lead to an economic crisis. Moreover, there is a high demand for energy that cannot be satisfied without the extraction of oil, coal, and gas. Climate change is global, although most gases are emitted by the more developed countries such as the UK. Hence, there have been legislations such as the UFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, which have acted as international regulations in industrial activities to prevent adverse climate change. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol places a greater burden on the most industrialised countries because they are best placed to reduce the greatest amount of emissions. The UK Climate Change Act of 2008 has also set local guidelines for its departments to ensure a reduction of the GHG release. The legislations have been effective in the reduction of GHG emission, although legislations need to be formulated for the unconventional oil and gas extraction.

Report on how on the Research was undertaken in writing the Essay

The UK is still extracting fossil fuels such as coal and oil, despite the environmental risks that they pose. In a century where discussion on climate change is a topical issue among environmentalists and international leaders, pumping out oil, coal, and gas emissions should be unheard of. The UK is among the states that have shown committed to initiating climate change mitigation strategies by signing agreements and/or legislating statutes that protect the environment and citizens. The UK, which is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCC, and the European Union’s (EU) climate policies, was the first country to introduce the Climate Change Act of 2008 to champion environment friendly policies and activities. Despite the existence of such policies, the UK is still pumping out coal and oil, including the unconventional shale gases, which endanger not only the UK but also the world. To determine why such pumping continues together with the problems that come with it regarding climate change, a comprehensive research was undertaken in writing the essay as outlined in the subsequent paragraphs.

The research was undertaken in three different categories. The first category was aimed at determining the current the energy emissions as estimated by government institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The second category aimed at examining the existing extraction methods of oil and coal, and their impact on the economy and on the environment. The third section eventually researched the existing legislations that regulate the emission of GHG at local and international levels among other activities that endanger the environment. Eventually, the research evaluated the effectiveness of various policies with respect to the continued extraction of oil and coal in the UK.

In the research, both a systematic review and a traditional black letter methodology were used to retrieve the relevant sources to examine the issue. The methodologies were selected after considering factors such as the time and resources available for writing the essay. A systematic review process entailed analysing various studies on a given topic. The intention of using a systemic review was to have a comprehensive analysis on the report concerning the impact of continued extraction of oil and coal on the environment, including whether certain extraction methods or alternative sources of energy could limit CO2 emissions to the environments. This approach was based on scientific findings as reported by government agencies and environmentalists. Since the research technique involved using an objective when collecting information, it minimised any cases of bias and made the final more reliable and accurate.

The black letter methodology, which derives its title from legalistic methods of focusing on the purpose of the law, used a descriptive analysis approach to examine various laws that have been enacted to govern the pumping out of oil, coal, and gas emission. This methodology was effective since it helped in identifying the policies that govern climate change in the UK. The methodology also helped in developing a commentary on their (policies) effectiveness. It entailed interpreting various climate change cases and laws to create a structure of inter-related rules. The focus was on primary sources such as the Kyoto Protocol and Climate Change Act 2008. Nonetheless, it did not limit the paper from discussing some of the ethical, economic, and political reports on the impact of gas emissions, as well as pumping of oil and coal. Harmonising systematic review technique and the ‘black letter’ methodology ensured that the essay was comprehensive and accurate.

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The studies and reports were retrieved from online libraries such as the EBSCO, search engines, government agency databases such as the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the European Union databases, and information posted on websites of agencies such as the WWF, Energy Information Administration, and the National Grid and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Some of the keywords used for the research comprised shale, energy emission, the EU climate change legislations, and climate change litigations among others. The eligibility criteria comprised the time of publication, the relevance to the UK and the EU, and the presence of oil, coal, and as emissions as the thesis of the paper. With the exemption of cases and laws, all sources published before 2006 were isolated such that the essay would be based on recent discourses. Using a systematic review approach, reports and commentaries from scholars were examined to determine the general impact of oil and gas emissions on global warming, including the efforts that the UK has made to mitigate the threat.

Statutes and cases formed were significant in writing the essay. Thus, they had to be retrieved with extra vigilance. Other international laws such as the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC, and all the laws applied in the essay were the EU and UK legislations. The laws were retrieved from the websites of the EU and the UK government. Some of laws retrieved included the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the Directive on Renewable Energy Sources, and the Climate Change Act of 2008. Moreover, to decide on what was eligible as a climate change case, the research based its assessment on any judicial litigation, which had a climate change policy as the issue of fact or rather question of law. Due to limitations of time and resources, the survey only focused on rulings and judgments of the cases. The most outstanding case that was retrieved from the databases was the Arcelor SA v European Parliament Case T-16/04 [2010] Env LR D7 whereby there was an unsuccessful challenge concerning the validity of the EU ETS.

After retrieving the necessary sources, they were then arranged in three categories as outlined earlier to address various sections of the final essay. A draft was then prepared and reviewed to ensure that the sources collected addressed issues of the essay. The final essay was comprehensive since it pointed out various policies that the UK government applied to mitigate the continued pumping out of oil, coal, and gas. Despite the challenges posed by the gas emissions, the UK has indeed been committed to reducing the emissions and using alternative sources of environment friendly energy. However, the limitations of research were that the sources used were strictly retrieved from online databases. If other approaches such as face-to-face interviews by environmentalists and government officials were used, the results would have been more accurate.


Allen, P., Varga, L., Strathern, M., Savill, M., & Fletcher, G., ‘Exploring Possible Energy Futures for The UK: Evolving Power Generation’, Emergence: Complexity & Organisation, vol. 15, no.2, 2013, pp. 38-63.

Çetintaş, H. & Sarikaya, M., ‘Co2 Emissions, Energy Consumption and Economic Growth in The USA and the United Kingdom: ARDL Approach’, Journal of Economics & Administrative Sciences (JEAS), vol. 16, no. 2, 2015, pp. 173-194.

Department of Energy and Climate Change, ‘Updated energy and emissions projections 2014’, 2014

Energy and Climate Intelligent Unit, ‘UK energy and emissions’, 2015.

Gore, A., An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming, California, Paw Prints, 2008.

Hafez, A., ‘Investigating the Effectiveness of UK Energy Policy in Promoting Renewable Investments and Reducing Carbon Emissions’, ZIREB Zagreb International Review of Economics & Business, vol. 17, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-16.

Hitchin, P., ‘UK Oil and Gas: Squeezing the last drop’, Engineering & Technology, vol. 9, no. 9, 2014, pp. 77-79.

Laing, T., Sato, M. & Grubb, M., ‘Assessing the effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System’, Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. 2013. Web.

Lawson, N., An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, New York, Overlook Press, 2009.


  1. Department of Energy and Climate Change, ‘Updated energy and emissions projections 2014’, 2014.
  2. P., Allen, L., Varga, M., Strathern, M., Savill, G., Fletcher, ‘Exploring Possible Energy Futures for The UK: Evolving Power Generation’, Emergence: Complexity & Organisation, vol. 15, no.2, 2013, p. 39.
  3. Ibid., p. 40.
  4. P., Hitchin, ‘UK Oil and Gas: Squeezing the last drop’, Engineering & Technology, vol. 9, no. 9, 2014, p. 78.
  5. Ibid., p. 79.
  6. Department of Energy and Climate Change, p. 4.
  7. N., Lawson, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, New York, Overlook Press, 2009, p. 67.
  8. Energy and Climate Intelligent Unit, ‘UK energy and emissions’, 2015.
  9. H., Çetintaş, and M., Sarikaya, ‘Co2 Emissions, Energy Consumption and Economic Growth in The USA and the United Kingdom: ARDL Approach’, Journal of Economics & Administrative Sciences (JEAS), vol. 16, no. 2, 2015, p. 175.
  10. Ibid., 178.
  11. A., Hafez, ‘Investigating the Effectiveness of UK Energy Policy in Promoting Renewable Investments and Reducing Carbon Emissions’, ZIREB Zagreb International Review of Economics & Business, vol. 17, no. 1, 2014, p. 4.
  12. Energy and Climate Intelligent Unit, p. 1.
  13. A., Gore, An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming, California, Paw Prints, 2008, p. 45
  14. T., Laing,M., Sato, and M., Grubb, ‘Assessing the effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System’, Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy 2013. Web.
  15. Hafez, A., p. 14.

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