Energy and the environment

There is a growing focus on the effects of energy production and use on the natural environment

In many countries, there have been major improvements in local air quality as regulations have been implemented governing fuel quality and emissions of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and as the fuel mix has shifted towards cleaner burning fuels such as natural gas. In some emerging economies, pollution has become a growing problem as energy consumption has grown rapidly, albeit from a low base.

In recent years, the issue of global climate change has come to the fore as evidence has grown of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and the possible impact on global climate via the 'greenhouse effect'. The combustion of fossil fuels is one of the main contributors of man-made CO2 emissions.

We have produced a carbon dioxide emissions table which is available as a PDF and in the Excel workbook of underpinning data, 1965-2016.

The methodology for estimating of CO2 emissions from energy use was updated in 2016. We now use the Default CO2 Emission Factors for Combustion for each energy product type from the list of IPCC emission factors, and we now account for fossil fuel consumption for non-combustion purposes.

Links to websites covering energy and environment linkages

The United Nations Environment Programme has an energy programme, which addresses the environmental consequences of energy production and use, such as global climate change and local air pollution.

The IPCC is currently in its Sixth Assessment cycle. During this cycle, the Panel will produce three Special Reports, a Methodology Report on national greenhouse gas inventories and the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

The 43rd Session of the IPCC held in April 2016 agreed that the AR6 Synthesis Report would be finalized in 2022 in time for the first UNFCCC global stocktake when countries will review progress towards their goal of keeping global warming to well below 2°C while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. The three working group contributions to AR6 will be finalized in 2021.

The meeting to draft the outlines of each of the three working group contributions to the AR6 was held on 1-5 May 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The draft outlines will be considered by the panel when it meets in September 2017.

The US Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 to bring about a co-ordinated approach to environmental pollution in the US. The EPA co-ordinates research, education and assessment efforts and develops and enforces environmental regulations in the US.

The European Union has developed a comprehensive policy and legislative framework covering environmental issues.

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions sets out to educate the public and key policy makers on the causes and potential consequences of climate change.

Related content