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UK Cuts its Carbon Dioxide Climate Change Target for 2010; Transportation a Stubborn Problem

Meeting the original domestic target of a 20% reduction in CO2 is proving too problematic for the UK. Reductions in the total GHG basket are tracking toward Kyoto targets.

The UK has published a new Climate Change Programme (CCP06) that the government expects to reduce the country’s emissions of carbon dioxide by 15% to 18% below 1990 levels by 2010.

The UK has earlier set of target for itself of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels by 2010. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) blamed higher than anticipated levels of economic growth and the recent rises in global energy prices which have altered the relative prices of coal and gas for the increasing emissions that made the original 20% target “more challenging.”

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the UK has a target of reducing emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases by 12.5% below base year levels over the commitment period 2008-2012. The cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 20% is a domestic goal which the government had affirmed up to the release of this new document.

The base year for measuring progress towards meeting the Kyoto target is a combination of 1990 and 1995 data. 1990 is the base year for emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The UK has chosen to use 1995 as the base year for emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol which allows the flexibility to choose either 1990 or 1995 as the base year for the industrial gases.

Carbon dioxide, notes the CCP06, contributed around 77% of the UK’s total emissions of greenhouse gases in 1990: 161.5 million tonnes of carbon (MtC).

The power generation sector has proven the main driver behind the reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2004. While carbon dioxide emissions from power stations fell by 16% per cent between 1990 and 2004, electricity consumption increased by 17%. The reduction in emissions resulted from a switch from coal to gas in electricity generation, together with improved reliability and performance from nuclear generation, according to the report.

Impact of different aspects of transportation on CO2 emissions.

Transportation, however, has proven more problematic. In 2004, the transport sector was responsible for around 27% of total UK carbon dioxide emissions. Road transport CO2 emissions grew by 8% between 1990 and 2000 even though average new car fuel efficiency has improved by 10% since 1997, due to increased travel. Forecasts indicate that road transport emissions will grow by another 8% between 2000 and 2010, although the link between traffic growth and economic growth has weakened in recent years.

The CCP06 proposes two new measures to achieve those results in 2010:

  • A Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation which will require 5% of all UK fuel sales to come from renewable sources by 2010-11; and

  • Further improving the fuel efficiency of new vehicles, for example through use of fiscal incentives and by working to develop options on how to move forward beyond the first phase of the EU voluntary agreements with automotive manufacturers after 2008.

The government estimates that those efforts can contribute an additional 1.7 million tonnes of carbon savings in 2010, bringing total reductions in the transport sector in 2010 to 6.8 MtC. Further unquantified carbon savings will be delivered through measures to help people make smarter travel choices, including using more fuel efficient vehicles.

The UK is also pushing within the EU to get agreement on including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2008 on or as soon as possible thereafter, and is offsetting carbon emissions arising from central Government air travel.

The Government estimates that, as a result of the additional measures we are taking, transport carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 will be 5 per cent lower than they would have been from the original programme (the with measures projections), and 13 per cent lower than they would have been if we had not acted at all (if we had not taken the measures set out in the original climate change programme). This does not mean that we expect total transport emissions to fall.




In other news, the U.S. plans to increase emissions through the year 2100, at which time the world will explode.

Rafael Seidl

t -

in less than 1000 days the Bush presidency will be over. This too shall pass, fingers crossed. There are a lot of people in the US and many, many more internationally that hope the Democrats can come up with an electable candidate (M/F) in 2008.

A cogent argument would articulate the link between national and energy security. Iraq has shown that today, (the threat of) military action is no longer a viable strategy for securing cheap energy, i.e. the Republican strategy for national security is in fact not working.

Moreover, energy security and GHG emissions are inextricably linked - the US cannot afford to jump from the fire of war into the frying pan of climate change. In the globalized economy of the 21st century, GTL & CTL technologies are only stopgap measures and nuclear remains a highly dubious proposition.

Long-term, fuels from regenerating sources are the only option. Other than waste-to-fuel, that means FAME, cellulosic ethanol and BTL. Hydrogen from electrolysis using solar/wind/hydro will likely always be far more expensive. However, the field is still wide open so the US has a chance to develop a competitive new industry around lternative transportation fuels.

Right now, I get the (admittedly unsubstantiated) impression that Japan, Germany and even Canada are ahead in terms of intellectual property generated (at least per unit of GDP).

Rafael Seidl

The UK switched to domestically produced natural gas after Thatcher killed off the long-mollycoddled domestic coal industry in the 80s. However, North Sea gas is in decline and supplies from Russia less secure than once assumed. With neither Iraq nor Iran viable trading partners at the moment, the planned Nabucco gas pipeline project linking Western Europe to the Middle East via Turkey is not certain to go ahead. LNG is perceived as the next best alternative, despite the GHG penalty.

In light of that fact, the UK is arguably a bit of a laggard on renewable energy incl. biofuels, doing only as much as the EU directive requires it to but no more.


Of couse, even if the UK manages to cut emissions like that, it will be more than made up for by India and China, neither of which are Kyoto signatories.

Rafael Seidl

Cervus -

you are right but there is no chance of either of them signing up to any GHG arrangement - Kyoto or otherwise - unless the US does. At least the Europeans and Japan are taking a half-hearted stab at addressing the problem. Besides CO2, important GHGs include CH4 (especially vented/flared natural gas) and HCFCs (vehicle and other air conditioning systems).

For reference, China uses about 4% of the world's oil, the US 25%. Europe is at ~15% depending which countries you count, India is still well below 4%. I don't have numbers for gas or coal.



I regard Kyoto-style agreements as ineffective to begin with. I understand the only way to meet treaty obligations is to limit economic activity. This seems to be a net negative effect. You need a strong economy and free-flowing capital in order to invest in alternative energy.

Few Kyoto signatories are actually meeting their treaty obligations.

At least by not singing on to Kyoto we don't become hypocrites.


Who cares if we're called "hypocrites" or not? That's a stupid reason to not try something. Whether or not the Kyoto targets are met, any progress toward that end is going to be beneficial and is a worthy cause. Sure, there may be some people who would call us hypocrites (maybe you?), but that's the only unconstructive part of this whole scenario.


I believe the Kyoto agreement was always meant to be a method to at least start emission reductions by setting up trading schemes. It was not meant to be a final solution in its present form. So by signing up to it at least a Government is proclaiming it is going to try and it is helping to get a system for reductions in place. All that any country can do is their best. By doing nothing and not even acknowledging that it is a human caused problem Bush is doing his worst and exacerbating the situation for the whole world. Also, the trading scheme is not bad for all industries. There are many opportunities for some industries while other companies won't do so well. Its the entrenched potential loosers that are complaining the loudest and which are close to the Bush administration. A similar thing is happening in Austrlia where one of the big industries is coal. Putting a few big companies before the well-being of future generations I think is deplorable.

See this:



The only real solution is going to be market-based. All we're really doing is shifting those heavy industries that produce a lot of CO2 to countries that do not have emission obligations (China, for instance.)

All the money that Kyoto is costing could be put to much better use by investing in alternative energy. R&D and bringing new tech to the marketplace is expensive. By holding back economic growth, we prolong our dependency on old technology.

Kyoto is not the only approach to reducing emissions. and it is a failing one to boot.

Here's a paper that compares Kyoto with a price-based approach.


I've read a few papers recently that discuss solar climate forcings. For instance:

80–120 yr Long-term solar induced effects on the earth, past and predictions

This one especially:

Phenomenological solar contribution to the 1900–2000 global surface warming

Also: Land Use as a First-Order Climate Forcing.

CO2 is not the only force at work, here.

Frankly, peak oil is going to force us to invest in biofuels anyway. One of my favorite new technologies is biodiesel and ethanol made from algae. GreenFuel Technologies has a very elegant solution that accelerates growth by using coal and natural gas powerplant CO2 emissions. They hope to start full production by 2009.

"Putting a few big companies before the well-being of future generations I think is deplorable."

Costing middle-class workers their jobs right now isn't any better. Those big companies employ a lot of people.

Joseph Willemssen

The human-created global warming deniers sure are persistent.



Any climate policy should be based on the best available research. The papers I've read recently point to a greater role in natural forcings than was previously known. Therefore any actions we take will be correspondingly less effective.

Notice I'm backing my position with recently pubished research.

I am not denying that humans have a significant role in climate change. I am simply questioning how much of it is our share.

Joseph Willemssen

"I am not denying that humans have a significant role in climate change. I am simply questioning how much of it is our share."

And that's the standard line these days, and simply a variation on the "we don't know" meme.

The basic presumption that actions to decrease greenhouse gases is going to hurt an economy -- that presumption is false. So, it doesn't really matter where the needle lies in terms of share between natural and man-made influences. And the "natural influence" argument itself is pretty hard to swallow, since one then has to believe in extraordinary coincidences (ie, the extremely short time period of the industrial age coinciding with some massive increase in temperature due to natural forces).

No matter the outcome, there will always be room for doubt about these things, because they're very complex. At some point you have to decide what the evidence is, what the risks are involved with each choice, then act.

I can't tell whether your objections are sincere or guided by ideology, but in either case, if you're interested, you may find William James' "Will to Believe" and interesting filter through which to view this problem -- the difference between those who seek truth and those who shun error.


I've found a multitude of scientific research lately that has given greater weight to natural or non-CO2 forcings like land use. The fact of the matter is that the climate will change regardless.

And poorly-planned actions will damage economies. This article is proposing carbon rationing.


Come on!
How about the more CO2 we add the worse it will be ? Surely that's a fairly simple argument to understand?

The point is that Bush doesn't want to take any action on CO2 whether it is poorly planned or not. He doesn't believe it. This, despite the fact that there IS a scientific consensus on this, as published recently in Science. Here is link to some important points on this issue.


As for peak oil, why not kill two birds with one stone? The sooner we reduce fossil fuel consumption voluntarily, the easier it will be, whenever it hits. Even after peak there will be enormous quantities of oil left in the ground that could contribute to more CO2 emissions.


"Come on!
How about the more CO2 we add the worse it will be ? Surely that's a fairly simple argument to understand?"

Too simple. I've come to this way of thinking from the scientific research that I've read, some of which I've linked to above.

I'm going to leave it at that.


I can't access the Yousef paper but Scafetta and West acknowledges that man made CO2 is still the prime likely cause. Land clearing may also contribute as pointed out but again the role of CO2 is not denied. As I mentioned before, there is a Scientific consensus here. If you want to cherry-pick outliers then you are not interested in the balance of evidence, you are simply trying to back up a stead-fast belief.

What else can I say?

Joseph Willemssen

"And poorly-planned actions will damage economies."

Operative words there are "poorly" and "planned".

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