UK Greenhouse Gas Trends
By Paul Homewood
Provisional data published by DECC at the end of March suggest that UK GHG emissions fell to 497.2 MtCO2e in 2015, a reduction of 38% from 1990 levels. In other words, we are already close to the 40% cut agreed by the EU as their 2030 target under the Paris Treaty.
Ominously however, DECC have this to say:
We can be sure that the UK will end up having to contribute much more than its 40% share! We already know, of course, that the Fourth Carbon Budget legislates for a cut of 52% by 2023-27, and the CCC are proposing to increase this to 57% for 2028-32, implying an annual figure of 342 MtCO2e, or a cut of 31% from current levels.
This will be much harder to achieve as we have effectively been picking the low hanging fruit so far.
DECC have not published the detailed 2015 numbers yet, but 2014 looked like this:
There are only the first four sectors that can make any meaningful difference.
First, Energy Supply, ie electricity:
CO2 emissions have halved since 1990, mainly due to the big drop in the use of coal. Eliminating coal completely will save 74 MtCO2e, but some will inevitably be offset by greater use of gas, even under the most optimistic decarbonisation scenarios.
The net saving is more likely to be around 60 MtCO2e.
However, what none of this takes into account is the likelihood that electricity demand will rise significantly, both because of rising population and electrification.
But then it starts getting difficult!
If we look at the next biggest sector, Transport, we find very little change in emissions in recent years.
Although cars are becoming more fuel efficient, this is offset by more cars on the road.
Again, with Business we find little change recently, other than the fall out after 2008.
Interestingly, the Provisional 2015 Report states:
Business sector emissions decreased by 3.1 percent (2.2 Mt) due to a reduction in the use of blast furnace gas for iron and steel industrial combustion (driven by the SSI steelworks at Redcar ceasing production in mid-September 2015).
Closure of industry seems to be the only way big inroads can be made into industrial emissions.
Finally, there’s Residential.
Emissions in 2014 were unusually low because it had been such a mild year. DECC estimate that the temperature effect reduced emissions by about 20 MtCO2e (this includes electricity supply as well).
Some savings over the years have been achieved by better insulation etc, but, with a rising population, it is not clear that there is much scope for further savings without radical changes.
All in all, beyond the substitution of coal, it is difficult to see how any other significant reductions can be made. It is easy to see why ridiculous schemes, such as the hydrogen project in Leeds, are being taken so seriously.