Tackling climate change

There is good scientific evidence to show climate is changing because of emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity.

The bulk of emissions derive from our demand for energy. The largest contributor is carbon dioxide (CO2), emitted when fossil fuels are burnt to meet those demands. There are also other emissions attached to industrial processes and agriculture.

The science of climate change

Climate model in Europe

Human activity is affecting the earth’s climate with long term consequences. Look at the case for action. 

Mitigation: reducing carbon emissions

power generation

The majority of the UK’s emissions can be lowered by becoming energy efficient and by switching to low-carbon fuels.

Legal context

House of Commons

International, EU & UK legislation exists to tackle climate change. Find out more.

Adapting to climate change

Flooding image

Limiting our carbon emissions is not enough. We need to learn how to adapt to a, possibly irreversible, changing climate.



So what needs to be done? To limit the most damaging impacts of climate change, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally. The cost of acting to reduce global emissions, as estimated in the Stern Review, would be 1-2% of global GDP, compared to 5-20% damage costs to GDP if the problem was ignored.

There are significant economic benefits of the UK acting now to reduce its emissions:

  • In a future world where greenhouse gases are restricted, the cost of emitting those gases (i.e. carbon price) will be high. Early action to reduce emissions – here and elsewhere – can help reduce future costs.
  • Investment in and development of low-carbon technologies will put the UK at the forefront of new and expanding global markets.

The Climate Change Act (2008) made the UK the first country to establish a long-term legally binding framework to cut carbon emissions. It contains a target requiring emissions reductions of 80% by 2050. A wider legal landscape also exists, spanning the UK, the EU and globally, to address climate change.

But it will take more than just legislation to ensure we tackle the problem. Change will involve a combination of new technologies, processes and human behaviour.

There will also be a need to adapt to climate change that cannot be avoided.

The UK will need to prepare for more flooding, greater pressure on water resources, damage to natural habitats, and risks to human health from heat waves.  At the same time, there could be opportunities, including reduced energy demand and fewer cold-related deaths due to milder winters.

Photo credit: SEDAC