Renew On Line (UK) 67

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 167 May-June 2007
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         

1. UK-2GW of wind and more
2. Energy White Paper delayed
3. Climate Bill emerges
4. £13m Scottish Marine Energy programme
5. Low Carbon Buildings Programme
6. Carbon Emissions and Offset Code
7. More RO squabbles: OFGEM opposes RO
8 UK roundup: Bio-energy
9. EU roundup
10 World roundup
11. Nuclear News

6. Carbon Politics: UK Emissions down?

DEFRA has announced Greenhouse gas statistics which it says show that the UK is on track to ‘almost double its Kyoto target’ of a 12.5 % cut by between 2008-2012. The final figures for 2005 showed that UK greenhouse gas emissions were 15.3% below 1990 levels- 18.8% when the effect of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is taken into account. And with emissions trading, there would be an estimated 23.6% reduction in greenhouse gases on 1990 levels by 2010. But the UK’s voluntary aim to cut CO2 emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2010 looked increasingly difficult to achieve- it was projected that it would only be 16.2%. Nevertheless there had been a decrease in CO2 emissions between 2004 and 2005, and this was it seems due mainly to a reduction in emissions from the domestic sector, down by 4.6%.

Environment Secretary David Miliband said that while it would take several years to confirm whether there was a permanent downward trend in household CO2 emissions, it was a hopeful sign. Provisional estimates published in March 2006 had indicated that CO2 emissions in 2005 would be about 0.25% higher than in 2004. But DEFRA says that ‘the uncertainty in provisional estimates is at least +/-0.5% - meaning the provisional estimate is consistent with the final results’.

DEFRA also point out that the inventory figure for 2005 CO2 emissions does not take into account the effect of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which was in its first year in 2005. DEFRA noted that its effect had in fact been notable, indicating that it was an ‘important and effective way of pricing carbon in the economy, which ensures that industry takes full account of the cost of carbon dioxide, and provides a financial incentive for industry to reduce emissions’. So industrial emissions were likely to continue to decrease.

However, the figures do not include emissions from aviation, which have continued to rise. Between 2004-2005, DEFRA noted that CO2 emissions from domestic aviation increased by 7.1%, while international aviation emissions increased by 5.7%, as the number of flights rose. Between 1990-2005, aviation emissions more than doubled. Under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change guidelines, emissions from international aviation and shipping are not included in the UK’s data. Miliband said ‘The continued increase in emissions from aviation fuel- doubling over fifteen years- is the strongest evidence yet that aviation needs to be brought into the EU Emission Trading Scheme as quickly as possible’.

But a study by University College London (for Channel 4 Dispatches) found that, under current policies, reductions in the transport sector were unlikely, and that the UK’s overall emission cut might only be 12-17% by 2020, instead of 30% as hoped. *Another study pointed out that, globally, shipping contributed 4-5% of global CO2, about twice that from aviation, and this was growing.

Carbon challenge

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has launched a new international challenge for housebuilders to design and build flagship zero-carbon and low carbon communities. The Carbon Challenge, to be run by English Partnerships, calls on developers to raise standards of design, construction, energy/water use and waste disposal so that these techniques can be used in the future as a benchmark for mainstream development. It also seeks to meet rising public expectations for more sustainable communities reduced bills and a higher quality of housing design.

The Challenge will, she said, spearhead the move towards zero-carbon development, as announced in Dec. in a radical package of new measures for greener housebuilding, including the Code for Sustainable Homes and the first ever planning policy on climate change, and builds on the Chancellor’s Budget promise that in future most new zero carbon homes will be exempt from stamp duty. She added: ‘Building the new homes we need across the country is a prime opportunity to harness new technology and drive up environmental standards. We need to design communities, not just houses.  While there are lots of carbon saving measures which can be used in individual homes, designing a whole community gives developers scope to make use of schemes like district heating and combined heat and power plants. I encourage British and overseas builders to come up with bold and innovative ways to kickstart the drive towards zero carbon in ten years.’

Project Details

The first two English Partnerships sites are named as Hanham Hall near Bristol and Glebe Road in Peterborough. 3 more public and private sector sites are expected to be added within 12 months. The Challenge will be open to developers & construction firms from across Europe with a target of delivering several thousand zero or low carbon homes. The sites made available will be brought to the market individually over the coming year with the support of local authorities and other partners. They will be specified as requiring zero carbon or near zero carbon according to local factors. As well as being environmentally friendly, it is seen as important that they are affordable, well-designed and spacious.

Trevor Beattie, the Director of English Partnerships responsible for delivering the Challenge said: ‘English Partnerships will work with the construction industry to meet the challenge of climate change. Together we can make a major contribution. We will work with the house building industry and local authorities to shape the future of development in this country. Ministers have issued the Challenge and there will be many ready to take it up.’
The successful bidders for the first two sites will be announced in autumn 2007, with work starting in summer 2008. The Government is also encouraging other public land owners, including local councils, as well as private land owners, to put their own land forward as part of the Carbon Challenge and be zero carbon trailblazers.

Carbon Offset Code

Only four of the current 59 schemes available to travellers who want to offset the carbon emissions of taking flights meet the government’s voluntary standards for offsetting projects announced in January by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The four schemes named as meeting the new standards were PURE the Clean Planet Trust, Global Cool, Equiclimate and Carbon Offsets Ltd. Travel companies that have offsetting schemes, including First Choice Holidays and, have undertaken to meet the standard by the end of the year.

The Government’s new standard is based on the use of certified credits from the established Kyoto market, via sources such as the Clean Development Mechanism. These credits are backed by an international framework and institutions to ensure that real emission reductions take place, as well as providing a clear audit trail.

Environment Secretary David Miliband said the standard and associated code of practice would raise the bar for the offsetting industry. ‘Offsetting isn’t the answer to climate change. The first step should always be to see how we can avoid and reduce emissions- through thinking about how we use energy in our homes and businesses, and the way we travel. However, some emissions can’t or won’t be avoided. That’s where offsetting has a role to play. It’s a way of compensating for the emissions produced with an equivalent carbon saving.’

He said that consumers needed an assurance that when they bought offset, their money is spent on projects that have genuine emission reductions. ‘People need to be sure that the way they offset is actually making a difference. The Government’s standard and code of practice, with a quality mark so people can check easily before they choose an offsetting product, will help to provide that certainty. Ultimately, this is about providing certainty for consumers in an emerging environmental market.’

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said: ‘This new voluntary standard will not only bring clarity for those who are already offsetting- it will also encourage many more to consider how they can lighten the footprint they leave on the planet’.

However, some travel companies were not happy with the new offset code. The Independent (25/2) reported the Association of British Travel Agents’ view that: ‘Tourists would rather see their money going towards a smaller-scale project in places they are likely to visit’, and said that ‘Tour operator First Choice agreed: “We are going with gold- standard [community] schemes for the time being”.’ The Independent added ‘HSBC is also urging the Government to include the smaller schemes in the new code, as is Virgin Atlantic.’

* The Government is also taking action on its own emissions, with all ministerial and official air travel being captured under offsetting schemes since April 2006. Around 30 departments and agencies are participating in the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund, which will source and deliver 255,000 CER credits, with a provision for a further 50,000 credits over the next three years. However embarrassingly, the governments pledge to offset the carbon emissions generated by the G8 summit at Gleneagles last year looks a little dubious after project managers said it would take over 21 years to reach the target. The Sunday Times (21st Jan) noted that ‘the scheme, which involves making more than 2,000 homes in a South African township energy efficient, is on the brink of collapse as it faces a £1m funding shortfall. Organisers now admit that even if they can plug the gap, it will not meet the pledge until 2029 at the earliest.’

* The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee is looking at offsetting.

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