About Sandbag

Sandbag is a UK-based not-for-profit think tank conducting research and campaigning for environmentally effective climate policies. Our research focus includes the phase-out of old coal in Europe; deep decarbonisation of industry through technologies including Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage; reform of the EU Emissions Trading System; and increasing ambition in the EU 2020 and 2030 climate & energy packages.

Sandbag was founded on this simple idea: Put your effort where it makes the biggest impact.

For all of us who see the exciting potential of a clean energy future and the corresponding threat of climate change 'meltdown', it can be frustrating that things aren't moving faster. We 'do our bit' but individuals' efforts don't add up to a clean energy revolution.

Not unless we can change the economy.

Put the true cost on the dirty options, and you get the world moving in the right direction. This is often referred to as carbon pricing.

The good news is that this change has already begun in Europe. Polices are now in place which aim to reduce emissions from fossil fuel use for energy. Chief amongst these has been the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS). A cap has been put on half of Europe’s emissions and each year the cap tightens. Big polluters such as power companies and heavy industry now need to purchase permits in order to continue polluting. Fewer permits are issued every year, allowing innovators who reduce emissions to make money, while polluting dinosaurs face increasing costs. This Emissions Trading System has given CO2 a price and this changes decision making.

But - as Sandbag has highlighted consistently over the years the system is failing to live up to its potential and major reforms are needed.

We were set up to shine a light on what is really going on in emissions trading and have led a number of successful campaigns to improve the policy. However, the scale of the problem is now so great we have concluded that unless the ETS policy is fixed this year, it should be scrapped.

Setting the cap is a political process, and whether or not billions of tonnes in carbon emissions are pumped into the atmosphere depends on the decisions of a few key politicians. We inform them through our research. We let them know we're watching. And - with the right pressure at the right time we can make a really big difference.

Even as we muster the political will to fix the system, we know that this multifaceted problem cannot be remedied with a single policy solution. We will also need to use credible alternative policies to reduce emissions that can’t be reached by introducing a price on pollution alone. This is why our work has expanded into two important additional policy areas: phasing out unabated coal in the electricity sectorand introducing carbon capture and storage in industrial sectors.

That's what Sandbag and this site are all about - for more information continue reading ...

If you'd like something to download or print out with some brief information, here's a small flyer about us.

The problem

Urgent action is needed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is the only way we can avoid or slow down increasingly dangerous levels of climate change.

For the people who have already suffered from the effects of extreme weather, failed crops, flash floods and heat related illnesses, and for the species and ecosystems that are struggling to adapt to changes in temperatures, the new climate we are experiencing is due to a 0.85 °C increase spread unequally across the globe with more warming at the poles. Because of the time lag between emissions and the temperature increasing - the 'inertia' of the climate system - we know we have more changes ahead of us whatever we do now.

The challenge we face is to avoid causing levels of change in global temperatures that will bring about catastrophic consequences over relatively short timescales. The kind of changes that will result in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, eventually adding 7 meters to global sea levels, or the loss of the Amazon rain forests - the home of more than a third of the world's species, or the desertification of large parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Latest scientific thinking tells us that we need to act quickly - ie within ten years - to set the global trend in emissions on a rapidly declining path. There’s no time to lose and every tonne not emitted counts as once released CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for around 100 years.

The Sandbag solution

If the climate system has an inbuilt inertia then so does our political system: what ambitious yet realistic changes can be made in such a short space of time?

Sandbag is dedicated to finding the answer to that question and to devoting our resources to achieving the changes that are necessary in the required timescale.

With the EU’s carbon market on its knees due to very weak caps on emissions Sandbag has been campaigning for an injection of new ambition, to tighten caps and reset the balance. In October 2014 wepublished a report highlighting just how broken the policy is and stating that decision makers must either fix it within 12 months or ditch it and replace it with a more effective policy.

We continue to campaign for policy changes to fix what was supposed to be the EU’s ‘flagship’ climate policy that has so much potential, using a combination of analysis and targeted advocacy and working closely with fellow NGOs and progressive businesses to call for change.

But we are also very clear that even a fixed emissions trading system will never on its own be enough to drive the transformation we need to reach establish a competitive clean energy economy as quickly as possible. So we also work on targeted policies to phase out coal in electricity in Europe and on winning more support for the use of carbon capture and storage in industrial sectors, where switching to renewables is not as easy or affordable.

One final thing...

We are primarily now a research and policy advocacy organisation but we also continue to provide a service that anyone can use to reduce future greenhouse gas pollution levels: Buying and destroying excess permits to pollute.

Anyone can enter the market to buy emissions rights and cancel them but it is hard to find anyone in the market willing to sell fewer than 500 tonnes. We believe individuals and organisations should be able to buy smaller volumes than this so we buy allowances in bulk and then sell them on so that they can be cancelled and never used to allow a tonne of carbon dioxide to enter the atmosphere.

We also provide an option to send a lobbying message to our decision makers and leaders calling for the ETS to be fixed.

So if you want to help us win this fight why not destroy a tonne of carbon now and send a message to politicians that the system needs to be fixed. They need to know we are watching what they are doing and put them under pressure to act.

If you have more questions, please get in contact.

Who funds us


You! You can donate to Sandbag through Paypal or directly to our bank account (ask us for the details).

Our core costs are funded from the following sources:

Some funding also comes from our work with other organisations. These include:


If you'd be interested in working with Sandbag on carbon market reform, please do get in contact.

As a Community Interest Company (CIC), we produce an annual report and accounts, which are available at Companies House.