Carbon sequestration means we can meet our Kyoto commintments without relying on unpopular nuclear power or unrealistic projections for renewablesby Richard Barry / March 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
The forthcoming energy white paper, expected in March, will need to be read with our Kyoto greenhouse gas commitments in mind. Last May, without great fanfare, Britain, along with the other 14 EU countries, ratified the Kyoto protocol. The protocol will not come into force until it has been ratified by countries which account for at least 55 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the developed world. But that will happen later this year when Russia ratifies the protocol. Ninety days after that happens, our Kyoto promises become binding commitments.
But what exactly are those? By ratifying, we have promised that during the target period 2008-2012 we will reduce our emissions of a basket of greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent, measured in most cases from a 1990 baseline. In fact, we have essentially done it already and can almost certainly maintain our virtue throughout the target period. The latest forecast from the European Environment Agency identifies Britain as one of four EU countries most likely to keep its promise (along with Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden)-a performance of which we can be proud.
The secret of our Kyoto success lies in the basket. It is made up of the six greenhouse gases that contribute most to global warming: the largest volume is CO2; the others are methane and four obscure gases that, while emitted in small quantities, are tonne for tonne quite disproportionately damaging. We have been pretty successful in reducing emissions of methane and the obscure four, but less so in reducing our CO2 emissions. But for Kyoto it is the total basket that counts.
That said, our failure to get to grips with CO2 emissions is going to become an increasingly serious problem. There are two reasons for this gloomy view. First, the existing Kyoto commitment is just a start; demand for deeper cuts after 2012 must be expected. With methane and the obscure four already cut to the bone, meeting second (“Kyoto II”) and subsequent demands will leave us no alternative but to reduce our CO2 emissions substantially. Yet last year our CO2 emissions actually increased, and forecasts show that after 2010 our CO2 emissions are likely to have returned to a steadily increasing trend.
Second, the government has made another promise, this time nothing to do with Kyoto. This so-called “domestic goal” requires us to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent…