Shifting scales make UK carbon emissions reductions claims suspect

Depending on which scale or measurement is being used, the UKs carbon dioxide emissions are much better or much worse than their Kyoto requirements.

Some sources (as well as opposition members in Parlaiment) are saying that the numbers the British Government are using to track its carbon dioxide emissions ignore entire sectors of the economy. They claim that when those sectors carbon dioxide emissions are added onto the UKs total emissions the optimistic reports of Brits having surpassed their Kyoto requirements are not quite accurate.

Britain’s climate change emissions may be 12% higher than officially
stated, according to a National Audit Office investigation which has
strongly criticised the government for using two different carbon
accounting systems. There is "insufficient consistency and
coordination" in the government’s approach, the NAO said.

one system, which the government presents to the UN and in public,
Britain emitted 656m tonnes of CO2 in 2005, and claims an improvement
on 1990 figures. However, the lesser-known but more accurate data in
the government’s national environmental accounts show emissions to be
in the region of 733m tonnes in 2005, a NAO report says today.

"There are two different bases on which the government reports
emissions: that required for the UN, and the environmental accounts
prepared for the Office of National Statistics … [which are] more
comprehensive as they include aviation and shipping emissions. They
present UK progress in reducing emissions in a markedly different
light", says the report.

Opposition MPs are actually charging the Brown government with having "scammed" the British public by having reported the lower numbers.

Last night opposition parties and environment groups accused the
government of misleading the public at a time when the UK claims to be
leading the world in achieving reductions. "This report raises profound
questions about the credibility of the government’s approach to
reducing carbon emissions. In the absence of reliable and honest
reporting the results could be potentially disastrous", said Peter
Ainsworth, shadow secretary of state for the environment.

claim that Britain’s carbon footprint is shrinking is a scam. The
figures on aviation are being fiddled, meaning the government can give
the green light to airport expansion without most of the subsequent
rise in emissions being counted", said Robin Oakley, of Greenpeace.

A blog post on the issue elaborates by doing some of the math on the different reporting techniques and then opines that this revelation brings up serious questions about the ability of countries to meet strict carbon dioxide restrictions while maintaining a healthy economy. They also suggest that if an advanced and open economy and reporting structures — such as those found in the UK — can be so easily confused or misrepresented, it will be essentially impossible to accurately monitor emissions in closed or developing economies.

The British government’s National Audit Office has looked over the accounting ledgers and discovered that British greenhouse gas emissions are 12% higher than the official figures submitted to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and to the European Union. This means that instead of being 16% below 1990 levels, emissions are down less than 5% since 1990. Emissions in Britain dropped dramatically between 1990 and 1997, the year the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, because of the “dash to gas”. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants were closed and replaced with much cheaper natural gas from the North Sea fields powering new gas turbine power plants. But since 1997, emissions have been rising in the United Kingdom. Now, it looks like they’ve risen much more than the government realized or admitted.

21. March 2008 by
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