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The UK Carbon Plan – A Review

March 13, 2011 The UK Carbon Plan – A Review

The UK Carbon Plan is a very significant document and it represents the first attempt at making such a plan in the UK. It is structured in terms of ministries, with each ministry given a series of actions and a timetable within which to achieve them.
Everyone connected with sustainability in the UK, and many who are not and need to be, should read this document. There are many positive steps in it and it summarises an enormous amount of work done by this and previous Governments to understand the issues and design policies around them.

The report identifies the three single largest issues to tackle:

- generating our energy more efficiently and in cleaner ways, through renewables(RHI and FiT), Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and unsubsidised nuclear

-heating our homes and businesses in more efficient ways and reducing demand through retrofitting (Green Deal)

-powering our transport in other ways than through fossil fuels, lowering demand and improving conventional technology

All this is good-ish so far. But then comes the statement that “the UK accounts for just 2% of global emissions” the use of the word ‘just’ troubles me.
If one factors in the information that we buy nearly all our manufactured goods from overseas then our impact is a lot greater than 2%, nor does it cover the fact that historically we are the fifth largest emitter of CO2. Per capita we are the second largest emitter of historical CO2.
The other element of our emissions that is not dealt with is our indirect emissions, i.e. the balance of emissions produced from our imports and exports. This is in the region of 250Mt CO2 and our total annual emissions is 586 MtCO2. So we are causing the emission of nearly 50% on top of our annual internal total by buying in goods from abroad, mainly China and other Asian countries.
When it comes to zero-carbon homes the report really drops a clanger by saying that ‘around a third of the homes that will be in use by 2050 are yet to be built’ Really? Are we going to build 8 million homes between now an 250? In 39 years?. At current rates it will take us 80 years, and I haven’t spotted any policy changes that are going to double the rate of supply.

Overall the report is Good, even Very Good, with the caveat that there are some errors and significant emissions. The Committee on Climate Change has the job of reporting on annual progress of the plan. and the Government will report quarterly. This plan is the draft, and the final version will go live in October and be refreshed annually. Watch this space.

Full review here: