The latest UK greenhouse gas emission statistics

The United Kingdom Government has published its provisional estimates for greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. There are six greenhouse gases recognised by the Kyoto Protocol and these are the only ones to be counted, leaving the more recently discovered gases which have a greenhouse effect uncounted in the government estimates.

The latest estimate indicates that net emissions (that is to say emissions estimated after deducting the emissions estimated to be have naturally sequestrated), are marginally down from 635.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 623.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

85% of the greenhouse gas was actually carbon dioxide and the main reason given for the reduction is that less coal is being used for electricity generation and vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient.

Most of the greenhouse gas emitted was actually carbon dioxide; it was emitted by “business” (mainly the business of electricity generation) which is estimated to account for 35%, transport, which is estimated to account for 28%, followed hard by residential emissions, which accounted for 26% of the emissions. The residential sector showed the largest fall in the big emitters but that may be due to warmer weather and people attempting to economise on power and heat as their fuel bills rose.

A 2% fall in the estimated amount of emissions is probably no fall at all. 2% is I imagine within the margin of error where the figures are founded on estimates with back calculation. I have no doubt that the good people at National Statistics, who compile these estimates, have done their best to represent them as accurately as possibly, but measuring emissions by estimates is at best highly intelligent guesswork.

The estimates are complied using the “inventory methodology”, which in fairness to the Government are described by the Government as being subject to many irregularities in their results.

For example, the statistics are complied using as a base, fuel consumption and then applying the emission factor for each type of fuel consumed – oil, gas, coal and petrol, for example. In this way they statistics are supposed to reflect the carbon content of each fuel when burnt but, they only do this to a limited extent.

Power station fuel consumption is simply allocated on a pro rate basis, and this takes no account of the higher emissions created by coal and oil burning power stations, when they power up to meet peak demand.

Having explained that, let us accept for argument’s sake that the United Kingdom’s emissions are actually down by 2% from 2006 to 2007. That leaves the equivalent of 623.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Of this 90% will be carbon dioxide which will last in the atmosphere for about one hundred years.

If next year emissions are down by a massive 10% (and unfortunately they will not be) then from 2007 we will have, counting from 2007 until the end of 2008, 632.8 million tonnes and another 561.42 emissions left in the atmosphere, a total of 1.194 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

It is clear therefore that if the United Kingdom is to make a difference to its emissions it ought to cut them back to the level that the United Kingdom can sequester. That means, of course, a 100% reduction in emissions.

No country will reduce its net emissions by 100% in the foreseeable future, but actually that is the task that we as a planet have to face.

So when you read or hear about emission reduction targets  you have to remember this; the problem with targets is that they are often the wrong targets and with an issue as complex as climate change is that you could achieve the target but still fail to halt global warming.

For example, the Government has set a target of creating 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. that target, if achieved will be a nonsensical achievement, if by 2020 energy use has risen and the population increased by 10%. It is a meaningless target.

The United Kingdom might well reduce its net emissions by 20% by 2020, by that will not, unfortunately, make any difference to climate change, even if every other nation managed to get a similar reduction, because greenhouse gases build up to the extent they are not sequestrated by nature. It is as simple, and as complex, as that.

5 Responses

  1. […] CyberhomesBlog.com placed an observative post today on The latest UK greenhouse gas emission statisticsHere’s a quick excerpt…the problem with targets is that they are often the wrong targets and with an issue as complex as climate change is that you could achieve the… […]

  2. […] Inside System Storage placed an observative post today on The latest UK greenhouse gas emission statisticsHere’s a quick excerpt15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. that target, if achieved will be a nonsensical achievement, if by 2020 energy use has… […]

  3. Robert,

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  4. Doesn’t bring a lot of comfort for the future, does ir?

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