Making Change in How We Live, Where We Live, in Light of Climate Change

Monday, 7 March 2011

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Have a go at your creating your own plan for the UK to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Transition Town Tooting – along with lots of other local groups, businesses and NGOs – were invited to a consultation event last Friday run by DECC where they unveiled The 2050 Pathways Analysis.  Described as ‘an online framework through which to consider some of the choices and trade-offs we will have to make over the next forty years. It is system-wide, covering all parts of the economy and all greenhouse gases emissions released in the UK. It is rooted in scientific and engineering realities, looking at what is thought to be physically and technically possible in each sector.’

Giles and Hilary shared some interesting, and heated, discussions as we joined groups thrashing out various options for our future.  The tool allows you to test out scenarios relating to energy usage and production whilst seeing the immediate outcome of your actions on a graph of predicted CO2 emissions.  There is also a huge amount of background information provided to all your ‘decisions’ if you take the time to investigate. 
It’s a very good way of demonstrating how hard it is to balance the books between supply and demand under current modes of exponential growth.  A startling example is that the most ambitious target you can select for future UK flights involves a doubling of current usage.

It also gives an insight into the areas the government is looking at and into current thinking around possibilities - looking at the parameters used is extraordinarily insightful and gives us clues for where we need to inform the government and policy better

It was also interesting in exploring areas people are willing to sacrifice to balance the power sheet - every one we saw was completely different.  Some people favoured nuclear over biofuels and others who hated nuclear were willing to sacrifice food growing land in other countries to continue our Western gravy train.

You can create your own ideal pathway and can debate and compare with scenarios produced by a number of others including organisations as diverse as Friends of the Earth and the National Grid.   The online tool is fascinating to experiment with – if occasionally frustrating – as there are limits on the range of options available to you.  In addition to the assumption of growth we spotted the following, you may find others: 
  • There is no account taken of the carbon footprint of any UK imports as these are not currently included within government targets. 
  • Cost involved in the various options isn’t currently taken into account - some people questioned the bias this gave nuclear despite the infrastructure and decommissioning costs of reactors with only limited active life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly no account was taken of the long term availability of key raw materials such as oil, gas, coal or those used for generation of nuclear power.  Maybe the recent Announcement by the UK Government of Emergency Plans to wean the UK off Oil will see them factored into a future version!

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