United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Geopolitical Informations

65.22 million (2016)
Total area
243,610 km2

Main legislative bodies

  • Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Latest News

UK stays “committed to dealing with climate change” despite Brexit vote

Around a week after the UK voters’ decision to leave the European Union, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd on Wednesday (June 29) said government’s commitment on climate change and clean energy has not changed. Delivering a speech to the Business & Climate Summit in London, Rudd assured UK will not read more…

UK Government to anticipate the shutdown of wind-farm subsidies

On Thursday (June 18) the UK Government announced its intention to drastically curb public subsidies for onshore wind farms from April 2016, almost one year earlier than expected. Three schemes currently support this sector. Besides the marginal contribution of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) and Feed-in Tariffs, the Renewables Obligation (RO) mainly sustains onshore wind capacity. read more…

The case for fracking in the UK

Even though drilling for shale gas is still in the exploratory phase in the UK, its impact on the country is already being fiercely debated. There are a number of both economic and environmental factors that need to be considered before arriving at a decision. These will be considered in turn. First, on an economic read more…

Climate Policy Facts


Year Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF ( MtCO2e) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per Capita ( tCO2e Per Capita) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per GDP ( tCO2e / Million $ GDP)
1990 739.54 12.92 539.97
1991 747.28 13.01 552.76
1992 725.06 12.59 529.47
1993 707.02 12.25 498.88
1994 695.59 12.02 467.65
1995 678.05 11.69 440.3
1996 690.85 11.88 433.48
1997 662.53 11.36 398.38
1998 660.59 11.29 383.53
1999 651.34 11.1 367.37
2000 652.48 11.08 352.63
2001 660.76 11.18 349.47
2002 640.8 10.79 331.31
2003 648.45 10.87 322.53
2004 645.02 10.75 310.95
2005 638.42 10.57 298.13
2006 639.71 10.52 290.72
2007 626.09 10.21 275.1
2008 614.66 9.95 272.17
2009 565.05 9.08 263.85
2010 582.11 9.28 267.38
2011 543.55 8.59 246.91

The line chart shows the country’s carbon emissions by year, expressed in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for emission totals, and in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) for per capita and per dollar of GDP values. It is based on data from CAIT platform provided by the World Resource Insititute, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

By selecting or deselecting each item, you can compare or give prominence to particular emission trends.



Energy Source Production (ktoe) TPES (ktoe)
Coal 10986.715 30507.898
Oil 53280,109 61641,288
Natural gas 40695,828 70130,423
Nuclear 17989,636 17989,636
Hydro 489,684 489,684
Geothermal 0,788 0,788
Solar thermal 86,947 86,947
Solar photovoltaics 22,274 22,274
Tide, wave, ocean 0 0
Wind 1335,15 1335,15
Biomass 1712,53 2324,551
Biofuels 2162,756 2906,732
Waste 1033,622 1033,622

The double-doughnut chart shows the country’s energy production and TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), expressed in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). It is built on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency libraries, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

The INNER RING represents the country’s energy production from each energy source, corresponding to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced.

The OUTER RING shows the country’s total primary energy supply of each fuel. It represents the net quantities of fuels made available on the domestic market, after foreign transfers and trading. According to IEA’s definition, TPES equals production plus imports minus exports minus international bunkers plus or minus stock changes.

Differences between production and TPES are significant as they highlight the actual country’s behaviour in the matter of a given energy source. Production values and TPES values of the same energy source may vary widely, especially in case of the much-traded fossil fuels.


National Policy


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy with devolution. The state system is based on the civil law system, dividing power into a legislative, executive and legislative branch.

The bicameral Parliament consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It represents the supreme legislative body. The members of the government are also members of the Parliament. Bills can be introduced by either chamber of the Parliament, but are consulted before they are formally dealt with in the plenaries. When both chambers have passed the bill, the monarch has to give the Royal Assent in order for the bill to become an Act and turn into law. The seats in the House of Lords are mostly unelected appointments (excluding some peers elected among themselves) and are a mix of lifetime appointments and hereditary peerages. In contrast, the 650 members of the House of Commons are elected by the UK citizens. Due to majority representation, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have traditionally dominated the multi-party system of the UK. There have been only few incidences of coalitions or minority governments. The last vote was in 2017 due to early elections. Regularly, the next elections for the seats in the House of Commons would have been in 2020 based on the five-year term of members. Following the poll, the Conservative Party has lost its majority and thus formed a minority government with support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland.

The monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state. Theresa May is the Prime Minister at the moment and thus head of government. The government exercises the executive power on behalf of and by the consent of the monarch. Moreover, the government is answerable to the Parliament. In July 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May closed the Department of Energy and Climate Change and moved the responsibility for climate change to the new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have some individual responsibilities, including on some aspects of climate legislation. Scotland has an own parliament, while there are the Welsh and the Northern Ireland assemblies.

The UK is a member of the European Union. Therefore, EU legislation applies to the country. However, following the vote to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016, the UK is going to leave the EU until March 2019 (also denoted as “Brexit”).


As EU Member State, the UK participates in the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of the European Union, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to the COP21 in Paris in 2015 (see section on ‘International Policy’).

Climate Change Act 2008
The Climate Change Act of 2008 is the UK’s flagship legislation on climate change. The law was supported by all major political parties and was the first law with statutory greenhouse has (GHG) emission reduction targets. As such, the Act contains the legally-binding long-term target of reducing GHG emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels until 2050. The target is thereby to be achieved through both actions in the UK and abroad.
With respect to institutional arrangements, the law established the independent Committee on Climate Change to advise the government on the climate targets and to monitor progress of target achievement. Thus, the Committee has to create respective annual reports, which must be laid before the Parliament to enable scrutiny of governmental actions.
In order to attain the long-term target, five-yearly carbon budgets are defined. The law encompasses itself the first three five-year carbon budgets for the periods 2008-2012, 2013-2017 and 2018-2022. In 2009, the respective target for 2020 was increased by an amendment from a 26 percent emission reduction to 34 percent below 1990 levels.
In 2011, the level of the fourth carbon budget for the period from 2023 t0 2027 was set at 1,950 MtCO2eq in line with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change. This translates into a 2025 target of reducing GHG emissions by 50 percent compared to 1990. The fifth carbon budget for the timeframe 2028 to 2032 was laid out in the Carbon Budget Order 2016. Accordingly, the budget was set at 1,725 MtCO2eq and includes emissions from international shipping. This corresponds to a decline of emissions of 57 percent in comparison to 1990 levels.
The Climate Change Act requires the government to report to the Parliament on implemented and proposed policies for the attainment of the carbon budgets and to draft annual overviews of overall GHG emissions. In addition, the government has to define a limit for the purchase of carbon credits for each budgetary period. No use of international credits were allowed during the first period, except of the units bought by firms of the UK participating in the EU ETS. In the second period, a limit of 55 MtCO2eq was set.
The Act required the consideration of the GHG emissions from international aviation and shipping, beginning from the second budgetary phase. However, the government deferred the inclusion of these emissions in line with the provisions of the law due to the uncertainty over the international framework of addressing these emissions and the treatment of these emissions within the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) of the EU.
Beyond that, the law obliges the government to report every five years on the risks accruing from climate change and publish programmes to address these risks. Additionally, the Act creates an Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change to provide advice and scrutiny the government’s adaptation actions.
In 2011, the Carbon Plan was adopted. It replaced the 2009 Low Carbon Transition Plan and outlines the measures needed to meet the targets of the first four carbon budgets. As such, it icnludes five sectoral plans: low-carbon buildings (including energy efficiency and low-carbon heating), low-carbon transport, low-carbon industry, low-carbon electricity, and agriculture, forestry, land use and waste. Accordingly, the government will support insulations and other energy efficiency measures as well as define a zero-carbon home standards. In addition, low-carbon heat installations and district heating networks will be promoted. These measures in the building sectors shall reduce GHG emissions by 24 to 39 percent in 2027 compared to 2009. In the transport sector, support for ultra-low emissions vehicles (see also section on ‘Transportation’ below) and the promotion of alternative transport modes such as walking, cycling and public transportation, shall contribute to reducing emissions of 17 to 28 percent by 2027 below 2009 levels. Moreover, industry emissions shall be reduced by 20 to 24 percent in the run up to 2027 compared to 2009 through energy efficiency measures, low-carbon fuels, the EU ETS and carbon capture and storage (CCS). In the electricity sector, the Carbon Plan sets a target of a 75 to 84 percent emission reduction until 2027 relative to 2009. Thereby, the replacement of coal through gas and renewable power based on targeted support are put in the foreground, but no specific technology or decarbonisation goals are defined. Last but not least, methane emissions from landfills shall be reduced significantly by 2050 as part of the transition to a zero-waste economy.
Full document available here or as pdf.

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006
The law obliged the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to report GHG emissions and actions taken by the government to the Parliament. In addition, it established a scheme to promote micro-generation (small-scale generation of heat and electric power), introduced a green certificate scheme for electricity from renewable sources and provided for reporting on energy efficiency in the residential sector.
Full document available here.

Climate Change Programme 2006
The Climate Change Programme was at the time the most comprehensive framework on climate change. The 2006 Programme followed a first version of 2020 after reviewing the climate policy landscape of the UK. The Climate Change Programme outlined all policies and programmes put in place by the government to tackle climate change. The measures included in the document were projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 15 to 18 percent below 1990 levels until 2010. In addition, the Programme set a long-term target of reducing CO2 emissions by 60 percent by 2050, in line with an Energy White Paper of 2003. The concrete measures contained in the Programme include for instance the provision of support, advice and information measures for businesses, the continuation of the Climate Change Levy (see section on ‘Carbon Pricing’ below), the update of Building Regulations to raise energy standards of both new and refurbished houses, and the introduction of the Code for Sustainable Homes (see section on ‘Energy’ below).
Full document available here.


The UK has announced its intention to phase out coal power by 2025. The void shall be filled primarily with gas-fired power plants and nuclear power. Recent analyses imply that the last coal power station may close even in 2022 without government intervention. So far, a consultation process has been started with delay on two options for implementation of the coal phase out. Both rely upon Emissions Power Standards, which would set a limit on annual carbon emissions produced by coal power plants based on their capacity. The ageing fleet of coal power plants in the UK would be unable to meet those standards and would thus be phased-out continually. The UK government envisages a prominent role of nuclear power in the future energy mix. In 2013, the permission for the construction of the first new nuclear power station since decades has been given – the French energy supplier EDF is constructing the new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Somserset. However, costs are on the rise and it is already clear that the completion will be significantly delayed.

Energy Acts 2004 to 2016
The Energy Acts constitute the energy framework for the UK. Energy Acts have been adopted in 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016.
The Energy Act of 2004 deals inter alia with offshore production of renewable energy, particularly outside of territorial water and relating especially to offshore wind. As such, it established Renewable Energy Zones adjacent to UK territorial waters within which renewable energy installations can be established. Moreover, it laid the basis for competitive tenders for offshore transmission licenses. This was supposed to contribute to meeting the goal of 10 percent renewable energies by 2010. In addition, the law implemented energy efficiency commitments as contained in the 2003 Energy White Paper, such as raising building and product standards. It also created an Energy Efficiency Action Plan. Other provisions in the Act relate to nuclear energy and the energy sector in general (interconnection, transmission and trading of electricity, etc.).
The Energy Act of 2008 enabled the introduction of feed-in tariffs for renewable energy projects with a capacity of up to 5 MW. The feed-in tariff is in place since 2010 and varies depending on the renewable technology deployed. Hydropower, bioenergy, wind and solar PV as well as combined heat and power (CHP) plants are eligible for the feed-in tariff. The support is granted for 10 to 25 years, while being adjusted to inflation. The scheme obliges energy suppliers to pay the generators of electricity from renewable energy sources. It is only applicable to businesses, organisations, communities and individuals. Moreover, the 2008 Energy Act strengthened the Renewables Obligation (RO; see below), created the Renewable Heat Incentive and introduced regulations for private sector investments into CCS projects. The Renewable Heat Incentive represents a financial support programme for renewable heat generation on buildings. There are two components to this scheme: non-domestic and domestic. The non-domestic incentive was launched in 2011 with payments to industry, business and public sector organisations. The domestic incentive was launched in 2014 with payments to homeowners, private landlords, social landlords and self-builders. Further chapters of the law relate to the import and storage of natural gas as well as the decommissioning of energy installations.
The Energy Act of 2010 includes especially provisions for CCS, including financial assistance schemes for the construction of commercial CCS demonstration projects. In 2014, a scoping paper defined further steps for CCS development and updated the financial and technical support. The 2010 Act also defines reporting duties on the government on the decarbonisation of the electricity sector and the development and use of CCS. In addition, the law deals with reducing fuel poverty and the regulation of gas and electricity markets.
The Energy Act of 2011 has three main objectives – promotion of energy efficiency investments, enhancement of energy security and boosting low-carbon energy investments. For this purpose, it creates the Green Deal scheme that financially supports households and businesses in making energy-efficiency improvements. The programme is funded by a charge on the energy bills, as the savings compensate for the charge over time. Eligible improvements include insulation, heating, draught-proofing, double glazing and renewable energy generation in buildings. In addition, the Green Deal is supposed to raise awareness of householders to use energy more efficiently. In case of old or difficult-to-treat buildings, implementing the Green Deal is challenging. Therefore, additional support is available through the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO). The ECO replaced the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP), which expired in 2012. ECO complements the Green Deal by targeting low-income households and difficult-to-treat properties by governmental support for energy-saving measures. The provisions also ensure that private residential landlords cannot forbid any energy efficiency improvements by tenants if they are using the Green Deal or ECO. Moreover, rented residential or business premises need to adhere to a minimum energy efficiency standard from 2018 on. Beyond that, the law extends the Renewable Heat Ordinance to Northern Ireland, puts the government into the position to require energy companies to provide information on the cheapest tariff on energy bills, and amends the smart meter programme. This programme aims at introducing electricity and gas meters in buildings to provide occupants real-time information on energy use. This information can be used by the occupants to save money on their energy bills and reduce emissions. The aim is for all homes and small businesses to have smart meters by 2020. Thereby, energy suppliers are responsible for the replacement of respective gas and electricity meters.
With the Energy Act of 2013, the government implemented plans for the Electricity Market Reform. The reform aims to incentivise investments of up to GBP 110 billion into a more diverse and low-carbon energy mix in the light of the ageing energy infrastructure. For this purpose, the law introduces the so-called Contracts for Difference (CfDs). The CfDs constitute long-term contracts providing stable conditions and certainty for low-carbon investments in renewables, nuclear and CCS. The CfDs are based on a tendering system. Moreover, the law introduces a capacity market to ensure the security of electricity supply. Thus, payments shall be provided for capacity providers, which both address demand and supply if required. Besides, an emission performance standard is defined at 450 g CO2/kWh to ensure that no new coal-fired power plant is built without CCS and to enable short-term investment in gas. Beyond that, the Act provides the basis for the introduction of a UK carbon price floor in the EU ETS (see section below on ‘Carbon Pricing’).
Finally, the Energy Act of 2016 establishes the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) to regulate the oil and gas sector as well as CCS. This includes the implementation of provisions for the decommissioning of offshore installations, submarine pipelines and upstream petroleum infrastructure as well as regulations on upstream petroleum infrastructure. Moreover, the law addressed onshore wind power, including the closure of the RO (see below) for onshore wind and provisions related to the closure of onshore power stations.

Renewable Energy Roadmap 2011 and Renewable Energy Strategy 2009
The Renewable Energy Roadmap is updated annually to allow monitoring of progress. It replaced the Renewable Energy Strategy of 2009. The both documents in principle outline how to ensure meeting the legally-binding target of 15 percent renewable energy sources in the energy mix of the UK by 2020.
The 2009 Renewable Energy Strategy set further targets of reducing fossil fuel demand by around 10 percent and gas imports by 20 to 30 percent. In addition, more than 30 percent of electricity, 12 percent of heat and 10 percent of transport energy should come from renewables in 2o20 to attain the target. Respective investments of around GBP 100 billion would also lead to many employment opportunities. To meet all the objectives, financial support for renewable electricity and heat shall amount to around GBP 30 billion. The RO (see below) shall be extended and the Renewables Transport Fuel Obligation (see also section on ‘Transportation’ below) amended or replaced. In addition, the strategy refers to the introduction of feed-in tariffs and of the Renewable Heat Incentive. Moreover, the strategy created the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment within the Department of Energy and Climate Change for target delivery. Investments in emerging technologies, such as wave and tidal energy, offshore wind power and sustainable advanced biofuels shall be increased. Finally, support mechanisms are supposed to assist businesses, communities and households for small-scale renewable heat and electricity generation.
The 2011 Renewable Energy Roadmap defines key actions to support eight renewable energy technologies that are projected to deliver more than 90 percent of renewable energy needs in 2020:

  • Onshore wind: enable investments through the electricity market reform and an upgrade of the onshore transmission capacity;
  • Offshore wind: reduce costs of offshore wind by providing up to GBP 30 million direct governmental support until 2015, give certainty over financial incentives, guarantee a timely development of the necessary grid;
  • Marine energy: provide GBP 20 million to support wave and tidal energy innovation until 2015;
  • Biomass electricity: draft a UK Bioenergy Strategy to lay down a vision for the growth of sustainable biomass energy, support long-term waste fuel supplies;
  • Biomass heat: increase attractiveness through the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Renewable Heat Premium Payment in Great Britain, ensure sustainability of biomass;
  • Ground source and air source heat pumps: provision of Renewable Heat Incentive and the Renewable Heat Premium Payment for certain domestic heat pumps;
  • Renewable transport: draft plan to meet the 2020 transport sub-target, support electric vehicles with GBP 40 million for charging infrastructure and grants of up to 25 percent of purchase price.

In total, renewable energies shall deliver 29 GW of electricity capacity by then and 124,000 renewable heat installations are supposed to be in place.

CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (Carbon Reduction Commitment) 2010
The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is a mandatory reporting and pricing scheme that aims to improve energy efficiency and cut GHG emissions in large private and public organisations. It applies to supermarkets, hotels, water companies, banks, local authorities including schools, and central government departments, which are collectively responsible for around 10 percent of the country’s GHG emissions. Under the scheme, the organisation can buy allowances equal to their GHG emissions at a fixed price. This encourages the organisation to develop energy management strategies and to obtain a better understanding of their energy use. Moreover, it incentivises the electricity generation from renewable energies on-site for self supply. In 2014, the scheme was simplified through an Amendment Order. The 2016 budget included a reform of the business energy tax, which implies an abandonment of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme by 2018/2019.

Planning and Energy Act 2008
The Planning and Energy Act enables planning agencies in England and Wales to set mandatory guidelines for energy use and energy efficiency in local plans. To be specific, regulating agencies can establish requirements for renewable and low-carbon energy shares in development plans and for complying with energy efficiency standards that exceed the energy requirements of building regulations.
Full document available here.

Code for Sustainable Homes 2006
The Code for Sustainable Homes was based on recommendations of the Sustainable Buildings Task Groups. It provided a single national building standard and became mandatory in 2008. It included six levels with mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards, with the highest level setting out requirements for zero-carbon buildings. The code was withdrawn in 2015 when the new Building Regulations were adopted.

Renewables Obligation 2002
The Renewables Obligation (RO) is the main market-based mechanism in the UK for supporting large-scale electricity generation from renewable energies. The RO requires licensed UK electricity suppliers to source a certain proportion of the electricity they supply to their customers from renewable sources. The proportion of energy that must come from renewable sources is set to increase each year. The targets for 2009/2010 was 9.7 percent, while the percentage rose to 15.4 percent in 2015/2016. Initially, a Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) was issued for each MWh of renewable energy generation independent of the type of technology. In 2009, different numbers of ROCs were defined based on the cost of the technology and its potential for large-scale deployment. As a result, projects relying on more expensive but scalable technologies like offshore wind received more support. In general, renewable electricity generators obtain the ROCs and sell them to the electricity supply companies, which in turn use the ROCs to demonstrate compliance with the RO. In 2010, the RO was extended from 2027 to 2037 for new projects to provide investment certainty. However, the RO was eventually replaced by the CfDs, meaning that the last new capacity eligible for ROCs was added in 2017, as the scheme will close in 2037. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the RO. Ofgem issues the ROCs and gives renewable energy generators the necessary accreditation.

Bioenergy Capital Grants Scheme 2002
The Bioenergy Capital Grants Scheme supports biomass-fuelled heat and CHP projects in the industrial, commercial and community sectors. Thus, it promotes the efficient use of biomass for energy, for replacing fossil fuels and reducing GHG emissions. More specifically, the scheme awards capital grants to installations and equipment for biomass-fuelled projects.


Emissions Trading Scheme of the European Union 2005
The United Kingdom participates in the EU ETS, which aims to reduce GHG emissions in EU member states in a cost-efficient way by allowing companies in ETS sectors to trade emissions allowances (for more information see the profile of the European Union). The UK has around 1,000 installations covered under the EU ETS, which account for around 50 percent of the emissions reductions target between 2013 and 2020.
Since 2013, the UK operates a carbon price floor due to the low price of allowances in the EU ETS, in line with the provisions of the Energy Act 2013 (see above) and as announced in the 2011 budget. The tax rate amounted to GBP 16 when it was introduced and was supposed to rise to GBP 30 in 2020. However, in March 2014, it was announced that the price floor will be kept at GBP 18 per tonne from April 2016 on.

Climate Change Levy 2001
The main rates of the Climate Change Levy apply to electricity, gas, solid fuels such as coal and liquefied gas used for lighting, heating and power in the business and public sector. The Levy was originally designed to be revenue-neutral by recycling the revenue through National Insurance Contributions and enhanced capital allowances for investments in energy saving technologies. The enhanced capital allowances allow businesses investing in specific energy-saving equipment to write off the total cost of the equipment against their taxable profit as a 100 percent first-year capital allowance. Electricity produced from renewable energy sources and energy used and generated in CHP plants are exempted from the Levy. In addition, energy intensive businesses can receive a discount from the levy of up to 90 percent if the meet energy efficiency or carbon saving targets. For this purpose, they have to conclude the so-called Climate Change Agreements (CCAs). The first agreements ran from 2001 to 2013 (after extension to 2017) and a second scheme is in place from 2013 to 2023. After the expansion of sectoral scope, CCA targets have been agreed with 53 industrial sectors with more than 9,000 sites.
In 2011, additional Carbon Price Support (CPS) rates have been introduced for electricity.
The Levy is set to increase continually over the next years, as will the discounts as part of the CCAs.


Air Quality Plan for Nitrogen Dioxide in UK 2017
Although the plan relates primarily to air pollution through nitrogen dioxide, it is also highly relevant for mitigating climate change. The plan contains a ban of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and the target that almost every car and van shall be zero-emission vehicles by 2050. This target was already communicated in 2011 by the government but never included in any policy or law. The plan lists the existing funding measures, averaging up to more than GBP 2.7 billion, aiming to improve air quality and to provide for cleaner transport:

  • GBP 1 billion for ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) through the Plug-in-Car Grant Scheme (offers a grant of 25 percent of the vehicle price up to GBP 5,000; continues until end of 2017 or when 50,000 cars have obtained funding) and the Plug-in-Van Grant Scheme (offers a grant of 20 percent of the vehicle price up to GBP 8,000), including GBP 100 million for the UK’s charging infrastructure;
  • GBP 290 million for the National Productivity Investment Fund for reducing transport emissions, including GBP 60 million for new buses and GBP 40 million for bus retrofits, GBP 50 million for a Plug-In Taxi Programme and GBP 80 million for ULEV charging infrastructure;
  • GBP 89 million for the Green Bus Fund to help bus companies and local authorities in England to put over 1,200 new low-carbon buses on the roads;
  • GBP 27 million for the Clean Bus Technology Fund and the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund;
  • GBP 1.2 billion for cycling and walking from 2016-2021 for implementing the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

As new measures, the Air Quality Plan establishes a Clean Air Fund to support local measures, such as improving local bus fleets or supporting sustainable modes of transportation such as cycling, and pledges to change the tax treatment of new diesel vehicles. Details on the latter will be announced later in 2017. Moreover, a Strategy on the Pathway to Zero Emission Transport for All Road Vehicles will be published in March 2018.
More information and full document available here.

Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation 2007 (last revised in 2015)
The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) requires transport fuel suppliers to ensure that a certain proportion of their sales are provided by a renewable energy source. Suppliers are required to publicly report on carbon savings and the sustainable production of biofuels they use. Suppliers incur a penalty for non-compliance. The obligation affects fuel suppliers who supply at least 450,000 litres of fuel per annum are affected. The RTFO has been revised every two years since its adoption.
Full document available here.

Vehicle Excise Duty 2009
The Vehicle Excise Duty is a tax that is levied when the car or motorhome is registered for the first time, based on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions.

Low Carbon Transport Innovation Strategy 2007
The strategy includes a wide range of actions to encourage innovation and technology development in low-carbon transportation technologies. This includes the establishment of a Low-Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform, which has provided GBP 100 million over five years of support for research, development and demonstration projects.
Full document available here.

Company Car Tax Reform 2002
The reform revised the Company Car Tax to be carbon-based. This means that company cars are since taxed according to their CO2 emissions, depending on the grams of CO2 emitted per kilometre.

Bioenergy Capital Grants Scheme 2002
In addition to the general provisions on bioenergy (see above), the scheme reduced the excise duty for biodiesel and bioethanol.


In general, forestry represents a devolved manner. Only English forests are managed by the national government. Nonetheless, each devolved government has adopted targets and incentive schemes to increase forest cover. Scotland also aims to restore peatlands.

Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement 2013
The policy statement includes the target to reach 12 percent forest cover by 2060 in England.
Full document available here.

UK Woodland Carbon Code
The code is the main UK-wide, voluntary policy in the forest sector.
Full document available here.


Water Act 2014
The Water Act contains measures contributing to climate change adaptation. These includes increasing the resilience of water supplies to natural hazards, such as droughts and floods. Moreover, it encompasses measures to address the availability and affordability of insurance of households at high risk, as the law allows the government to establish regulations requiring insurers to provide coverage against those risks.
Full document available here.

National Adaptation Programme 2013
The National Adaptation Programme (NAP) is the governmental response to the risks identified in the 2012 Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA; see below). It applies only to England. The programme sets out actions taken and to be taken by the government, businesses and the civil society on climate change adaptation. The document is divided into four major categories: (1) raising awareness about the need for climate change adaptation, (2) increasing resilience to current climate extremes, (3) taking timely action for long-lead time measures, and (4) addressing major evidence gaps. It focuses on the areas built environment, infrastructure, healthy and resilient communities, agriculture and forestry, natural environment, business, and local government. In line with the five-year cycle of presenting the CCRAs, the NAP has to be repeated every five years as well. The Adaptation Sub-Committee is responsible for assessing the implementation of the NAP.
Full document available here or as pdf.

Climate Change Act 2008
The Climate Change Act 2008 (see also above in section on ‘Climate Change’) is the framework for climate change adaptation. It gives the UK government the power to ask certain organisations to produce reports on the current and future predicted impacts of climate change on their organisation as well as what they propose for adapting to climate change (“Adaptation Reporting Power”). This applies to organisations that are responsible for essential services and infrastructure, like energy or transport companies. In the first round of reporting (December 2010 to December 2011), more than 100 organisations, mostly from the energy, transport and water sectors, submitted reports. The reports can be found on the UK government website. The Climate Change Risk Assessment of 2012 included 700 potential risks with 100 reviewed in detail. The next assessment will be published in 2017.


Main source

If not otherwise indicated in text by hyperlinks, the following source applies:

Profile of the UK on the website of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

International Policy

General features

  • Party to the UNFCCC (Annex I)
    • Date of signature: 12 June 1992
    • Date of ratification: 8 December 1993
    • Date of entry into force: 21 March 1994
  • Member of the Kyoto Protocol
    • Date of signature: 29 April 1998
    • Date of ratification: 31 May 2002
    • Date of entry into force: 16 February 2005
    • Date of Acceptance Doha Amendment: —
    • During the first commitment period until 2012, the EU as a whole committed to reduce its emissions by 8 percent compared to 1990 levels. The UK has met its national goal to contribute to this target of reducing GHG emissions by 12.5 percent below 1990 levels. During the second commitment period until 2020, the EU as a whole has to reduce its emissions by 20 percent compared to 1990. Following the Effort Sharing Decision of the EU, the UK needs to reduce its GHG emissions by 16 percent compared to 2005 levels until 2020.
  • Signatory of the Copenhagen Accord (according to the communication of the EU, it is strived for a 20 percent GHG emission reduction compared to 1990 on the level of the EU as the Copenhagen Pledge; 30 percent in the case of comparable commitments by other industrialised countries and adequate contributions by advanced developing countries)
  • Party to the Paris Agreement
    • Date of signature: 22 April 2016
    • Date of ratification: 18 November 2016
    • Date of entry into force: 18 December 2016
  • Post 2020 action
    • The EU submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to COP21 in Paris, on 6 March 2015 as the first Party (for more information on INDCs see here). Following the ratification and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the INDC has become the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of the EU and the UK. The collective target of the EU in its NDC is to reduce GHG emissions by 40 percent until 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Multilateral and bilateral cooperation

  • The UK is supporting developing countries in addressing climate change through the International Climate Fund (ICF). Between 2011/2012 and 2016/2017, ICF programmes have mobilised GBP 2.2 billion public and GBP 500 million private finance, installed more than 400 MW of clean energy capacity, reduced or avoided 9.2 MtCO2eq, provided 12 million people with improved access to clean energy and supported 34 million people to adapt to climate change. Part of the funding that the UK provides through the ICF is used for combatting deforestation under the REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries). The government’s work mostly funds the following projects: Climate Investment Funds’ Forest Investment Programme, Congo Basin Forest Fund, African Development Bank, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and BioCarbon Fund.
  • Together with Germany and Norway, the United Kingdom pledged at COP21 to provide more than USD 5 billion from 2015 to 2020 for results-based payments supporting REDD+ activities in countries with ambitious and high-quality proposals (see here for further information on the UK’s funding activities in the forest sector)
  • The UK is a member of the G8/G20 and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.
  • The UK also forms part of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the global multi-stakeholder Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
  • Moreover, the UK belongs to the NDC Partnership, which strives to facilitate the implementation of NDCs and sustainable development commitments for achieving the SDGs.
  • In addition, the UK has joined Mission Innovation at COP21 and has thus pledged to double its expenditures on clean energy research by 2020.
  • Besides, the UK is a member of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), which aims to reduce methane emissions, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), which strives to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and HFCs.
  • Finally, the UK belongs to the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) and the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF).

Negotiating position

The EU constitutes itself one negotiation bloc in the international climate negotiations and always speaks solely with one voice. See thus the profile of the European Union for the negotiation positions of UK in the international climate negotiations.

Negotiation position before COP21 in Paris in 2015
The UK was pushing for a legally binding climate change agreement with significant commitments especially by the four largest emitters: US, China, India and EU. It emphasised the need of a holistic approach to tackle climate change, including the impacts on ecosystems. It encouraged the involvement of the corporate sector and emphasised the need for meaningful support for developing countries. The key message that the UK took to the conference was that making economies green would not have to come at the expense of prosperity and development.

Negotiation positions within the EU
The UK encourages the continuation of EU leadership on climate and energy policy. It supported even a tougher 2030 target of a 50 percent emission reduction compared to 1990 than the eventual 40 percent committed by the EU in its INDC (see above).