Setting carbon reduction targets – What does 34% mean for housing, workplaces and transport?

The Low Carbon Transition Plan (LCTP) is the central government plan for meeting and exceeding the carbon budget targets outlined in the Climate Change Act. Although it was published before the election the policies within it have largely been retained by the Coalition Government. The plan breaks down the anticipated savings by sector and year from 2008 through to 2022. So what are the targets by sector? This blog highlight some issues that should be considered when setting targets.

Carbon Descent is developing a service to assist Local Authorities in analysing what their targets mean on a sector by sector basis. Should this be of interest, we would be interested in hearing from you.

The following chart from the LCTP shows the 3rd budget period (2018 – 2022). Each budget period consists of five years of cumulative emissions. Note that the vertical axis is interrupted between 0 – 2,400MtCO₂e.

The chart shows that to meet the 2020 target (Carbon budget 2018-2022) the accumulative 5 years of emissions need to reduce from 2964MtCO₂e down to 2544MtCO₂e. The 2964 figure represents the first carbon level for years 2008 – 2012. The savings required from the first budget period in order to meet the third budget are displayed as the second column ‘savings required’ (420MtCO₂e). The plan has built in contingency so that the UK does not just meet the 34% target, it exceeds it. This is depicted in the third column ‘savings from plan’ (459MtCO₂e). The final column gives the remaining emissions of meeting but not exceeding the target.

The plan states that UK emissions for the year 1990 were 777.4MtCO₂e. If we take 5 years of 777.4 we get the value 3,887MtCO₂e. The Carbon Budget 2018 – 2022 of 2544MtCO₂e then represents 65.4% of this baseline. Put another way, 2544MtCO₂e is a 34.6% reduction on a 1990 baseline not 34% as quoted throughout the plan. Furthermore, an additional 39MtCO₂e from column 3 in the above chart gives a remaining carbon budget 2018 – 2022 of 2505MtCO₂e. This equates to 64.4% of the baseline, or put another way, represents a 35.6% saving from 1990.

What does the overall UK reduction target mean by sector?

I have put together the following table informed by the LCTP to show the budgeted emissions by sector.

In the year 2008, the total net UK carbon account is 603.4 which represents a 22% saving and is in agreement with the first budget level (2008 – 2012).

What targets should local authorities aim for? Is it 34%? Well, following the above rationale, I have outlined some considerations for deciding.

The first consideration is that the LCTP is not aiming to bring about 34% savings but rather 35.6% in order to allow for a margin of error in their assumptions/calculations/estimates. This is not a big issue though, it simply adds some contingency for meeting a 34% target.

The second thing to consider is that when using the NI186 dataset as a baseline, this omits the land use and land use change (LULUC), EUETS emissions from heavy industry that are not accounted for under domestic and non domestic point source electricity emissions, Diesel Rail, and Motorways.

• In the case of LULUC, the LCTP has only budgeted to reduce this sector by some 0.6%.
• In the case of Power and Heavy Industry, larger than average savings are achieved in this sector. The NI186 accounts for 70% of EUETS emissions in 2008 through domestic, commercial and industrial electricity use. 30% is excluded from the NI186 dataset from column c ‘Large Industrial Installations’. This 30% mainly represents heavy industry that does not supply electricity to the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors.
• For Diesel Rail and Motorways, these are covered in the LCTP under transport. The NI186 accounts for 76.5% of these emissions in 2008.

Taking the above three points into account, the target could shift from 35.6% up to 41.1% on 1990 levels.

The last consideration is that because the LCTP gives savings across the whole of the UK, this might not mean that these savings are equally distributed between every LA. What should each LAs target be? This is a more complicated question that we would be happy to provide some consultancy on.

Carbon Descent is developing a service to give local government better insight into county, unitary, district, and regional carbon reduction targets. If you are interested in having your authority’s target broken down into sector based targets, or if you would like to know what your authority’s allotment of the national targets are, we would be interested in working with you.

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