How Realistic is the Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT)?

Carbon dioxide (), after the industrial revolution has risen by approximately one third. Since 1990, temperatures globally have risen by 0.2 ?C and the concentrations in the atmosphere have increased from 354 parts per million to 380 parts per million and still increasing. Note that the ten warmest years globally since 1861 (when formal recording begun) occurred after 1994. If no action is taken, average temperatures globally could increase by 5.8 ?C by 2100 and sea levels from 0.09 to 0.88 meters. Millions of people will be exposed to hunger, clean water loss, flooding and diseases with people in the developing countries being more at risk. Low-lying areas, wetlands and small islands will be vulnerable from sea-level rise which could cause even extinction.

Take for example Bangladesh; a sea level rise of 45cm could result in 10% of the total land area being lost. Even developed countries will be affected. In UK, increased sea levels could threaten communities by the sea. Storms and severe weather conditions could have high costly impacts like the floods in the autumn of 2000 which cost UK 1 billion pounds. A recent report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers claimed that if no action is taken, sea levels will increase by 7 meters by 2250, flooding much of London, East Anglia and other coastal areas. In the same report it is stated that “Our climate is changing so unless we adapt, we are likely to face a difficult future”i

1.2 The Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto protocol is a set of international courtesy rules to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was produced at the United Nations Conference in 1997 and its main objective is the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”ii i.e. to prevent climate change. Other objectives includeiii:

* Establishing commitments for minimizing the greenhouse gases that are legally binding for Annex I countries, as well as general commitments for all member countries.

* Annex I countries are required to prepare policies and measures for the minimization of greenhouse gases in their respective countries. They are also required to increase the absorption of these gases and utilize all mechanisms available.

* Establish an adaptation fund for climate change in order to reduce any impacts on developing countries.

* Establish a Compliance Committee to make compulsory compliance with the commitments under the Protocol.

1.3 The 2050 Target

United Kingdom’s government introduced a target which aims at reducing carbon emissions as well as relieving fuel poverty. In 2003 Energy White Paper UK introduced a target in order to avoid dangerous climate changes. According to this target, UK should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from the 1990’s level (77% lower than 2005 levels) by 2050. This target includes all sectors of the UK economy, including international aviation and shipping. However, the majority of the cuts will be achieved in the domestic sector.

2. Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT)

CERT is the new name of the third Phase of the Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC) program. Phase 1 and 2 ran from 2002 to 2007. Phase 3 runs from April 2008 and will last until March 2011. It is argued, by the UK government, that CERT will have socioeconomic as well as environmental benefits. In terms of society, it will be beneficial because it will reduce fuel poverty. In terms of economics, it will be beneficial because this will create market opportunities for new and/or more efficient technologies. It will also contribute to the improvement of security of energy by reducing demand in the domestic sector. Finally, by reducing carbon emissions, it will benefit the environmentiv.

According to CERT, energy suppliers should provide measurements which grant savings equal to 158 . This is equal to emissions of 700,000 homes annually. 40% of the activity should focus on vulnerable and low-income households. By increasing the efficiency of the energy of UK’s households, CERT prevents households from fuel poverty.

As from 11 September 2008, the CERT increased its original target by 20%, equivalent to 185 (31 more).

2.1 Overview of Strategiesv

This section provides an overview of the strategies used in order for UK to achieve its target. Those strategies refer to all phases, not only the third one.

2.1.1 Energy Supply Sector

For the second phase, a National Allocation Plan was formed in order to save carbon. �80 million will be spent in order to support micro-generation. An additional �35 million will be spent in order to develop carbon abatement technologies. Electricity should be supported by renewables.

2.1.2 Business Sector

Climate change levy will continue to be used. Agreements will be made in order to encourage businesses to improve the efficiency of their usage of energy. The current policy mix will be kept, to ensure the most effective use of policy instruments to deliver emission reductions.

2.1.3 Transport Sector

From 2008, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation will be introduced, in order to increase the uptake of biofuels to ensure a long term framework which promotes an additional investment. Fiscal instruments (like Vehicle Excise Duty) will continue to be used in order to purchase less polluting vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers should commit on improving fuel efficiency. Carbon offsetting will be promoted to counterbalance emissions from central Government air travel.

2.1.4 Domestic Sector

In the domestic sector, improvements will be made in the Building Regulation in order to raise the energy standards for new and refurbished buildings. The Code for Sustainable Homes will be introduced which will suggest minimum standards for energy and water efficiency. 250,000 additional subsided installations of home insulations are planned to be achieved. More reliable consumer product information will be provided in order to raise awareness about new technologies as well as the climate change and individual actions one can take to help it.

2.1.5 Agriculture Sector

In the agriculture sector, resource efficient farm management will be promoted in order to reduce agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gases emissions. The scope and feasibility of an emissions trading scheme will also be examined.

2.1.6 Public Sector

The public sector will be funded with �20million to finance energy efficiency investment. A package of measures will also be introduced to suggest alternative action for local authorities in order to focus on climate change.

2.1.7 Review

This section summarizes UK’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Measures have shownvi that by 2010, emissions will be reduced by 19.4% compared to the previous years. Moreover, emissions will be reduced to 10.6% compared to 1990 levels. If the above mentioned strategies are followed, UK estimates a further save in carbon of 7.0 to 12.0 MtC by 2010. It is also estimated that by 2010, UK will reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 23% to 25% and emissions by 15% to 18% compared to 1990’s level. This means that UK is on track to meet and probably exceed its target.

3. Are the Targets Realistic?

3.1 Current Position

UK’s emissions have fallen. This was mostly due to the shift from coal consumption to oil and gas. However, since coal consumption increased again (because of an increase in the gas price), emissions increased as well, but are still lower than before. Some economists argue that if emissions of imports as well as from shipping are considered, UK emissions have risen.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers report claims that “The existing Kyoto Protocol has, to date, been a total failure, with emission levels continuing to rise substantially”vii. Another government report says that UK will not meet its target of reducing emissions. However, Mrs. Beckett (Environment Secretary) argues that the target of 20% reduction is still alive despite the claims that UK had not done enough. The director of Green Alliance Mr. Thompson said that “The government is off course to meet its own climate change target and fast running out of time”viii.

3.2 Background Information

According to research, the world population should reach approximately 9 billion citizens. It is estimated that emissions will be equal to 11 Gt i.e. 3Gt Carbon. Thus, the average emission per capita will equal 0.33 tC (in contrast to today’s 1.15 tC per capita). This 0.33 tC per capita should be equal for all mankind.

Moreover, between now and 2050 and depending on economic and population an increase of 30% to 50% can be assumed, in energy use, for the developed countries, and an additional 10% for the developing ones. Thus, emission reduction should be more for developed countries.

3.3 Kaya Identityix

The Kaya identity is an equation which relates factors that determine the level of human impact on climate, in the form of emissions of the greenhouse gas . The total emission level can be expressed as the product of population, GDP per capita, energy use per unit of GDP and carbon emissions per unit of energy consumedx i.e.

According to this, carbon emissions can only be minimized by reducing population or per capita GDP or carbon intensity of the economy. Most proposed targets focus on the reduction of the carbon intensity of the economy.

Factor 1: Population.

In 2007, the UK Office for National Statistics proposed a growth rate 0.7% per year until 2031. Assuming this rate of increase until 2050, the population of UK will reach 82 million citizens. The emissions in 2006 were approximately 9 tones per person. This gives 750 mT of (while the target of 80% reduction until 2050 suggests a total of 119 mT). This means that, since the population is growing, UK will have to reduce its emissions by at least 85% until 2050 (35% by 2020)

Factor 2: Economy

The annual GDP growth for UK for the years 1990-1007 where 2.5% including inflation. Assuming a 2% overall growth and population growth increasing by 0.7% per year gives a per capita growth rate equal to 1.3% annually. This adds an additional 440 mT of i.e. 1390 mT of total.

Since population and economy are factors that are not considered by the government, it can be argued that the Climate Change Act will fail to achieve its reduction goals both in short (2020) and in long term (2050). However, the reduction targets are still achievable.

3.4 Transforming the Energy/Power Sector

The power sectors contributes one third of carbon emissions thus, by making changes in the power sector will result in reduction of carbon emissions. Possible changes include the replacement of existing energy generation facilities with renewables and storing the remaining energy. UK has already formed the Renewables Obligation Order which suggests 15% of the energy generated should be produced by renewables by 2015.

By switching to renewable energy, emissions could be reduced to 50%. This means that the 2050 target and the mid-target of 2020 are achievable. The example was set by Sweden; 23% of its energy is from renewables.

However, financing the construction of new energy facilities is difficult and expensive. Trillions of pounds will be needed to build new facilities which will also require government mandates. Such mandates rely on market forces which are best at creating profit rather than public good.

4. Conclusion

alleviation is vital for our future, the world and the societies. UK knowing this, established very ambitious goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions. The effectiveness, however, of reducing emissions is questionable and the up-to-date evidence raise doubts as to how achievable the targets are. Quoting Dr. Thomas Schneider “Reaching 50% by 2050 and the intermediate target – 20% by 2020 – appear to have been set not by an analysis of the possible, but rather by poetic license or alliteration”.

Indeed the target for emission reduction is political fiction since they exclude knowledge as well as the ability to reduce the emissions. This is also supported by the fact that emissions from fossil fuels have increased by 32% since 1992, according to Institution of Mechanical Engineers report. However, UK has shown sustain rates of reducing carbon compared to other countries, a rate that recently fallen. Additionally, the emissions for UK in 2006 were 0.42 tons per �1,000 of GDP. If the world averaged 0.42 tons, global emissions of would be approximately 32% less.

It seems that the only possible way for UK to meet its targets is by switching from fossil fuel energy, to renewable. By doing this, an additional 10% reduction could be achieved (30% by 2020). However, this is very expensive and difficult to be done and even if it is done, it will take too much time, resulting in UK to miss its mid-target for 2020.

Another possible way for UK to meet its targets is by tracking emissions produced per capita GNP i.e. emissions produced within a country and divided by the population of that country. If this happens, it would be possible to deliver the changes needed in the technology sector and thus, reduce emissions. However, this suggestion raises doubts as well. For example, a computer can contain parts from all over the world. Also, manufactures can change suppliers and thus, making difficult to accurately track and calculate carbon emissions.

To sum up, updated evidence have shown that UK will almost certainly fail its initial targets. This is mainly because of the current economy and market forces which seek profit and not the wellbeing of the population. UK government should also focus on the process of achieving these targets and not only on timetables. The failure of UK, however, will give the opportunity to reconsider current targets and policies and retreat them in a more effective way.

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