UK is second only to Denmark in climate change mitigation, says new report

Drax CEO Will Gardiner

The UK is second only to Denmark when it comes to implementing measures to mitigate climate change, according to a new global energy revolution league table.

In the report ‘Energy Revolution: A Global Outlook’, researchers from Imperial College London have assessed 25 countries, covering 80% of the world’s population.

Launched at the UN climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, the report looks at each country’s performance across five metrics, including:

  • Clean power
  • Fossil fuels
  • Uptake and sales of electric vehicles
  • Capacity for carbon storage
  • Energy efficiency of households, buildings and transport.

The UK’s carbon price – its charge on greenhouse gas emissions which is stronger than elsewhere in Europe – has led to rapid deployment of renewables and the fastest phase out of coal power, making for world-leading progress in reducing the carbon emissions from power generation.

Whilst most countries have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide produced per kWh of electricity by 100g/ kWh over the last decade, the figure in the UK is more than double that at 260g/kWh.

Uptake of electric vehicles is also among the highest in the UK, which is home to the world’s fifth largest electric vehicle fleet.

However, progress in the UK is being hampered by the fact it lags behind on the provision of large-scale carbon capture and storage facilities, says the report, needed to limit the harmful greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere.

The research was conducted by Imperial College London, facilitated by Imperial Consultants and commissioned by Drax Group.

Responding to the findings Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said: “Our global economy is changing and the transition to zero carbon, lower cost energy is vital if countries are to be able to compete.

“At Drax, we’ve converted two thirds of our power station to use biomass instead of coal, transforming the business to become Europe’s biggest decarbonisation project and helping to make the phase out of coal in the UK the fastest in the world. But we want to do more.

“We’re piloting the first Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe – which could make Drax the world’s first carbon negative power station. Removal of carbon from the atmosphere is vital if we are to meet our climate targets.”

Imperial’s Dr Iain Staffell, said: “We researched how the world is progressing on uptake of the five key technologies and measures needed to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius. This reveals Denmark, UK and Canada to be world leading.

“Progress across these five areas is very mixed.  Great strides are being made in cleaning up global electricity generation, and renewable capacity is increasing rapidly all around the world.  Electric vehicles are also rapidly taking off, but still have only reached a 5% share of new cars sold in two countries.  Improving the efficiency of our homes and industries needs urgent effort.  Significant investment in Carbon Capture and Storage will also be needed if it is to contribute to limiting climate change, as only 6 countries are currently demonstrating this technology at scale.”

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry, said: “This confirms the UK’s position as a world leader in decarbonising the economy – phasing out coal as we move to a greener, cleaner energy system with record levels of energy from renewables. We have also led the way in transitioning to low emission vehicles and today one in five electric vehicles sold in Europe is manufactured here in the UK.

“But we’re determined to do more to reduce our emissions. That’s why last week we published plans for the UK’s first carbon capture, usage and storage project to be operational in the mid-2020s with the ambition of potentially rolling out this cutting-edge technology at scale in 2030s.”