Through the Climate Change Act, the UK government has committed to reduce emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, thereby contributing to global emission reductions and helping limit global temperature rise to as little as possible above 2°C.
UK emissions were 42% below 1990 levels in 2016. The first carbon budget (2008 to 2012) was met and the UK is currently on track to outperform on the second (2013 to 2017) and third (2018 to 2022). However, it is not on track to meet the fourth (2023 to 2027).
To meet future carbon budgets and the 80% target for 2050, the UK will need to reduce emissions by at least 3% a year, from now on. This will require the government to apply more challenging measures. The majority of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions now come from transport. So it is in this context that I want to investigate how London is reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions.
The annual road transport emissions for the Greater London Area (GLA) are projected to be 5,728,930t CO2 in 2030, (London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory 201330 data). According to Donnachadh McCarthy (Eco-auditor) that is about 1.4% of all UK current emissions . However in 2030 it would represent a far higher percentage of the total UK emissions, as other sectors are cut. Road transport in Greater London is seriously inhibiting our ability to reduce UK greenhouse emissions
When deciding whether an infrastructure project or transport policy contributes to or mitigates against global warming, we must compare the amount of energy consumed in producing it (embedded carbon), to the amount of energy used by the vehicles and infrastructure (carbon footprint) For instance, a carbon footprint can be used to express the carbon of running a car, embedded carbon would tell you the carbon footprint of producing a car
Whilst greenhouse emissions are not the whole story, nevertheless it is important to have calculations available to make informed decisions.
I am looking to see if Transport for London is keeping an appropriate carbon budget alongside the financial budget. This means they must hold calculations on projected embedded carbon and the potential carbon footprint of all of the transport projects and policies in The Mayors Transport Strategy.
In their response to my FOI ( TfL Ref: 0013-1819, 2 April 2018), Transport for London seems to have a muddled approach to carbon accounting. Their response is as follows ‘We do not have a carbon budget as such….however our Annual report and statement of accounts, as well as our budget and Business Plans provides some detail of our expenditure on environmentally based initiative’. Obfuscation is not the friend of transparency.
I have also been submitting Freedom of Information requests to Transport for London for the embedded (or embodied) carbon in a wide range of vehicles and infrastructure. Low emission buses, ZEC Taxis, the Elizabeth Line and the Silvertown Tunnel.
In TfL response to FOI Ref: FOI-4721-1718 1 March 2018 I was told no details were kept at TFL on the embedded carbon of ZEC Taxis and Low emission buses. I was very surprised. Surely TFL needs to know, for instance, what is the embedded carbon of 9,000 new ZEC Taxis by 2020, which the Mayor had committed to?
However I was successful in obtaining projected embedded carbon calculations for the Silvertown Tunnel proposals, held in the ‘Energy and Carbon Statement’ (FOI to TfL Ref: 0013-1819 on 2 April 2018 )
The document states that a total of 153,279 tonnes of CO2 would be generated by the construction of the Silvertown Scheme. To put that in perspective, Donnachadh McCarthy says that is the equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of about 50,000 homes.
It also reveals the baseline energy consumption of the Silvertown tunnel would be 1,827 annual carbon emissions (tonnes CO2), mostly consumed by lighting.
And that extra traffic emissions over a four year period, (generated by the Scheme based on the traffic using the tunnel) is a total of 92,000 additional tonnes of CO2 .No mention is made of induced demand.
For the individual, the most interesting number is the personal carbon budget (that is the combined emissions from personal spending on housing, travel, food, products and services). The personal carbon budget needs to fall by almost a tonne each decade, beginning at 5 t in 2010 and dropping to 1.5 t by 2050.
Given that average personal emissions in 2010 were around 5 tonnes per person reducing them to 1.5 tonnes by 2050 is very ambitious. Yet this is exactly the sort of reduction the science dictates we must make in order to keep warming this century below 2°C (3.6°F)
The personal and the strategic are equally important. I noticed in the draft London Plan that transport infrastructure projects are graded as low, medium and high cost. Why do we not have a similar grading of projects as low, medium and high carbon cost? We urgently need a carbon budget alongside the financial budget.