So you may remember I promised some more local and lighter topics in these next editions. Well with this edition I can promise one of those things. Brace yourself because I read (almost) all of WinACC’s latest report on Greenhouse Gas emissions in the Winchester District. In this edition I’ve pulled out all the juiciest stats and recommendations hands rubbing together in anticipation.
Stories covered in this newsletter:
- Winchester District GHG Report
- And a Lightning Round packed full of some of the stories I didn’t have time to write more about.
WinACC’s 2021 report
Winchester Action on the Climate Crisis, or WinACC, is a Winchester District based group helping cut Winchester District GHG emissions to net-zero by 2030 as committed to by the Winchester City Council (WCC).
All the data WinACC had access to producing this report was up to 2019 so none of the figures here have been affected by COVID19.
Introduction and Summary
One note before we jump into things: Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the only GHG included in emission numbers. This is shown by units like kgCO2 and not kgCO2e where the “e” stands for equivalent.
In June 2019, the WCC declared a Climate Emergency and committed to net-zero in Winchester District by 2030. They also pledged to have a carbon neutral council by 2024.
In 2019 782 ktCO2 were released, which is a 31.0% reduction from 2005 (1134 ktCO2). However, this is mostly due to reduction in emissions from energy generation at a national scale and will not be enough to reduce emissions to net-zero. All coal will be phased out by 2024, so Winchester District will stop seeing emissions reductions in electricity then. Excluding emissions from electricity we can get a more accurate few of emissions in Winchester District: Emissions have plateaued since 2011 and have fell by only 17% from 2005-19.
Road transport was responsible for 58% of district-wide emissions in 2019. In other non-domestic sectors there is a distinct lack of data which makes some actions hard to recommend with any certainty and leaves some questions unanswered, for example: why do just two “rural business parks” produce 5% of the district’s commercial emissions? These are the kinds of questions that can only be answered with greater transparency.
The highest impact actions from the different sectors as calculated in this report are:
- In finance: “Always apply for national funding on climate mitigation” and then use those funds on carbon neutrality!
- In transport: Encourage people to work from home 3 days per week. The council should set an example with their own staff and there is also room for individual businesses to change their policy to allow more staff to work from home more often.
- In gas: Domestic gas emissions are 18% of the district’s, so reductions here are essential. Reductions could come from: central heating, improving energy standards, setting high standards for new buildings and retrofitting older buildings.
- In electricity: the WCC should promote and support large-scale renewable energy generation projects within the district even though the direct effect on the district’s emissions are relatively low.
In the report, international shipping and aviation are excluded, this is how the data is from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). WinACC primarily uses this data because it goes back to 2005 whereas other sources like CSE don’t provide history.
Total electricity consumption has fallen by ~10% since 2005. This is also shown in emissions from electricity which have reduced by 9.2% more than the emissions factor (conversion between kWh and kgCO2). To clarify: total emissions from electricity have fallen by over 50% as coal is phased out, in addition to this, they have fallen 9.2% more than this reduction from the national grid.
The average UK household uses 3811 kWh; this is significantly lower than the 4518 kWh per household used in Winchester District. The district has seen significant progress in reducing emissions from electricity, but it will likely need to do more to reduce consumption before it can reach net-zero.
Gas consumption per household is similar to the rest of the UK. Consumption has been falling in line with more efficient condensing boilers. However, domestic consumption has been increasing since 2016 due to an increase in the number of homes (consumption per household remains constant so this is the only option). There has been no significant change in emissions of gas since 2006. Emissions from gas are also not weather corrected (like consumption figures are) for hot or cold years, so it is especially hard to calculate a trend.
Emissions from vehicles have been falling since 2018. This has been aided by diesel fuel consumption decreasing since 2017 likely due to the emissions scandal. Despite this good news, consumption in 2019 is still within 1% of the 2005 value. Like consumption, emissions from vehicles have only been gently decreasing since 2018. This is worrying since road emissions make up 58% of the district’s total emissions so it is essential we see huge changes in this area before 2030.
Despite huge increases in average mpg of new cars (45% and 38% for petrol and diesel respectively since 1997), from 2018-19 mpg increased by only 3% and 4% for petrol and diesel vehicles. The general lack of trend being seen in emissions from vehicles is likely due to a rise in SUVs which now make up >40% of new cars vs <2% which are electric in the UK. To the same effect the International Energy Agency (IEA) “has calculated that the luxury car market for SUVs was the biggest driver of carbon emissions growth from 2010 to 2018 after the power sector.” From 2010-18 SUVs are responsible for an extra 3.3 million barrels a day of oil demand for passenger cars.
On top of this, emissions from Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) are up 16.3% likely due to more home deliveries (and an increased number of delivery companies). The drop off that we have seen since 2018 and its timing do indicate that vehicle emissions are very susceptible to the “social acceptability of diesel cars and SUVs.” So without (national) legislation progress can still be made in this area.
Residual fuels include the following: industrial and domestic uses of petroleum, agriculture, coal, domestic solid fuels and bioenergy & wastes. Fortunately, coal emissions are back below 2005 levels after peaking in 2013.
Emissions from bioenergy and wastes are increasing rapidly but this is the only sub-sector which is showing such a strong trend like this. There has been an unexplained rise in agricultural emissions since 2018.
Frustratingly, there is no real data for emissions from sub-sectors of residual fuels in Winchester District; there is only modelling from BEIS which makes it hard to make recommendations or draw conclusions from these numbers.
This sector is (obviously) not discreet from the sectors listed above, but I felt, given the audience of this newsletter, and the interesting points in the report, that it was worth commenting on separately.
Every building in the public sector of over 250 m2 (there are some other requirements too, such as being frequently visited by the public) is required to have a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) which shows its emissions and is available online. DECs are the only example of energy consumption data being available online like this. More data (and hopefully WCC has access to some of this) about commercial and industrial sectors is needed to make good plans to reach net-zero in those areas. DECs have to be reassessed every year or ten years depending on the size of the building, but it seems this is not being rigorously enforced and, due to huge changes in emissions, it seems the assessments are not consistent. WinACC estimates the potential emissions reductions from schools and other public buildings are low, even though state schools use easily an order of magnitude (10x) more energy per m2 than the Passivhaus standard (15 kWh/m2 for Passivhaus vs 162 kWh/m2 and 120 kWh kWh/m2 of gas and electricity respectively keeping emissions below 30 kgCO2/m2 as suggested in the report (current energy consumption is higher)).
Better report of emissions across the UK in all sectors will be essential for reaching net zero, whether it is enforced or voluntary. Good emissions reporting also comes with economic benefits.
LULUCF is not included in other emissions and instead provides the window where Winchester District’s other emissions must reach to count as net-zero. It is fortunate then that LULUCF emissions in Winchester District are still negative and in fact provide a sink to 6.3% of the district’s emissions (this number is only expected to increase). There is a strong trend which the report expects to continue until 2030 giving WCC an even larger threshold for net-zero.
BEIS has made a significant change in how LULUCF emissions are calculated nationally which has turned LULUCF from a net sink to a net emitter. However, this change only affected LULUCF in Winchester District by 0.1 ktCO2 for a value in 2019 of 49.3 ktCO2 reduced. LULUCF data is usually uncertain but the consistency across the two forms of methodology gives me more confidence that these are real emissions reductions. Despite this, it should not be relied upon too much in emissions calculations.
While there have been positive changes since 2005/6 no sector other than electricity has fallen more than 25%. Electricity has fallen by more than 60% if national grid decarbonisation is included. Not counting electricity gives a better perspective on what’s happening in the district itself and doing this shows that emissions decreased till 2011 but have plateaued since then.
In good news, no sectors or sub-sectors have increased emissions since 2005. Total emissions have fallen from 1134 (913) ktCO2 to 782 (603) ktCO2 where () exclude motorways, which is a decrease of 31% (34%) since 2005. In perhaps less good news, to reach net-zero, starting 2021 Winchester District would need to reduce emissions by 30% each year.
The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) includes more emissions sources than BEIS and these data show Winchester District’s top 3 sources of emissions as: meat and fish, domestic mains gas and private transport. CSE’s total for the district was 1084 ktCO2e (note the inclusion of non-CO2 emissions sources). These are all areas WCC can influence or make changes.
“Ask ‘have you considered the cost of doing nothing? How much will that be?’ As former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern estimates, inaction could cost a third of the world’s wealth. Once the terrible cost of doing nothing now is understood, climate action today is a bargain.” - WinACC Greenhouse gas emissions in Winchester District: Part XI
For all the actions that WinACC suggests, none of them are carbon offsets. In fact, WinACC says that there are many arguments against offsets and they should only be used as a last resort. Due to a lack of data, emissions reductions in some areas have not been calculated or it was too difficult to figure out what useful changes would be. In these cases, the reduction is either included in a separate list or is not in the report at all. This is not a judgement of the quality of the action and potential reductions are limited only by imagination.
The proposed changes lead to a drop of 191 ktCO2 by 2030 which is both a huge reduction and far from the necessary reduction to reach net zero. These changes would drop total emissions from 603.1 ktCO2 to 380.5 ktCO2 (excluding motorways) which is 63% of original value. Fortunately, many more changes than are set out in this report are possible by 2030 if there is support from the government and national legislation. Equally, many numbers rely on a predicted % change, simple ratios can show the potential reduction if more or fewer people than proposed take up the change.
This is secretly a listicle
Here are the top 10 emissions suggested emissions reductions from the report. The report includes both actions being taken and not being taken by WCC and in this way provides a list than encompasses most measures to allow people (WCC) to more easily assign priorities to each action.
Note how 5 of the top 10 are to do with road transport. This is a crucial area for reductions.
- 3 days per week working from home: 30.1 ktCO2 reduction if half of workers implemented this. It would save 60% of commute emissions per worker working from home 3 days per week. To be implemented by the UK government or individual companies.
- Electric Vehicles (EVs) replace all diesel vans: 15.8 ktCO2 reduction by the government.
- Reduce motorway speed limit: 14.3 ktCO2 reduction by the government if reduced from 70 to 60 mph. This is 8% of total road emissions.
- Domestic - Smaller electricity intensity: 14.0 ktCO2 reduction by government as per BEIS predictions.
- Changes in diet: 13.1 ktCO2 by a WCC campaign and individual changes would reduce food emissions by 22% if only 36% of people become vegetarian.
- Commercial - smaller electricity intensity: 13.1 ktCO2 reduction by government as per BEIS predictions.
- EVs replace petrol/diesel cars: 10.5 ktCO2 reduction by WCC campaign and individuals if 8.5% of cars in the district are replaced by EVs.
- Public buildings reduce metered emissions: 9.6 ktCO2 reduction by WCC or Hampshire County Council (HCC) is 157 public buildings improve to 30 kgCO2/m2/year.
- Smaller annual mileages: 9.2 ktCO2 reduction by car drivers if 51% (36,000) cars reduce their annual mileage by 1,000 miles.
- Industry - smaller electricity intensity: 6.9 ktCO2 reduction by the government as per BEIS predictions.
Some other actions that I thought were noteworthy but didn’t have as significant emissions cuts or for which WinACC was not able to calculate emissions:
- Switch to LEDs: 0.3 ktCO2 reduction by householders if 50% of remaining homes without LEDs switch.
- Thermostat down 1 or 2oC: 3.1 ktCO2 reduction by householders if 50% turn down by 1C and maintain. 2.4 ktCO2 additional reduction by householders if 10% turn down by 2C and maintain.
- Domestic Insulation: >13.3 ktCO2 reduction by WCC or the government across various forms of improved insulation standards, retrofitting and improvements.
- Investigate two “non-industrial combustion plants”: These account for 5% of commercial emissions and WinACC has no idea why.
- WCC should always apply for national funding and invest that money in large scale renewables or other ways of achieving carbon neutrality.
- The Hampshire Pension Fund should divest from fossil fuels and invest in green business. At the time the report was written, the fund had £136.1 million in fossil fuels.
- Landowners should be encouraged to measure their own carbon emissions.
- Investment in solar energy schemes and other forms of renewables are all predicted to save WCC money.
- Restrictions around transport such as: a congestion charge, clean air zones, closing public car parks in city limits, trebling prices on parking permits and a workplace parking levy would reduce emissions, and result in more funds for WCC.
Project Drawdown’s top 4 emissions reductions are the following: Refrigeration, onshore wind turbines, reduced food waste and a plant rich diet. The latter 3 of these could be applied to Winchester. The HCC has produced an action plan for carbon emissions till 2025.
Data transparency is going to be hugely important moving into the future. It is in (almost) everyone’s best interest to report carbon emissions. Public emissions reporting allows councils and governments to make better-informed decisions, informs companies where they can improve first, and let’s the public know who to support and where to put pressure. Many times throughout this report WinACC have been unable to make a recommendation or draw a conclusion about an issue because of lack of data. The climate crisis being as important as it is, this is not good enough. I hope that we’ll see more legislation mandating reporting and in the meantime, also more businesses coming forwards to report their own emissions. The report emphasises the benefit to Winchester of being seen as a climate leader, and this applies to businesses too.
Despite an encouraging Council target Winchester still has a long way to go before net zero. Without serious changes in public and government support, I do not think Winchester will reach net zero by 2030, but I hope to be proven wrong. I do think we will see a significant increase at least in public support as pretty soon almost all news is going to be about climate change in one way or another. IPCC WG3’s latest report does expect changes in culture to have no measurable effect from emissions globally and this suggests that WCC should not rely on behavioural changes to reach net zero.
Please do read the support yourself or at least take a look around WinACC’s websites. If you are active in Winchester, perhaps drop them an email or consider joining one of their action groups. There’s a really useful list of resources at the end of the report which I am yet to look through thoroughly but if you have time I suggest you do, as there are a number of great tools there; for example Impact.
Data transparency, not just with WCC but also with the public, is going to be key. It would give the public a way to hold businesses accountable and allows WCC to take better planned actions to reduce emissions faster.
Pricing Nature: Mini-episode on the Carbon fee on the Panama Canal
Take a look! I know I’m a bit late to this news, but there’s a carbon price on the Panama Canal! This is a pretty exciting development (although it may be susceptible to some of the pitfalls that energy efficiency ratings are in the UK, I will absolutely remain positive until told otherwise).
Ed Winters: Land of Hope and Glory
This is not new, but I only found it earlier this week and have to recommend it. This is essentially a compilation of real clips from UK farms with voiceover explaining the process animals go through from birth to slaughter. Land of Hope and Glory is absolutely brutal. If it catches your attention, I encourage you to go have a look at more of Ed Winters’s (Earthling Ed’s) stuff.
StopCambo: Stop Jackdaw
The group behind Stop Cambo (among others) has launched Stop Jackdaw in response to plans for a new Gas field in the North Sea. This field alone, once running, would contribute 50% of Scotland’s current national emissions. It would not produce any energy until 2025, so fails to reduce the need for Russian gas on a useful timescale and new mining is absolutely unsustainable on in the long-term and at this point, the short term too.
“In our universe there are billions of galaxies,
In our galaxy there are billions of stars,
But there is Only One Earth.” - UNEP
Thanks for waiting a little longer than expected for this edition. Despite that, I’m pleased with how this turned out.
See you next edition,