New report on Winchester District carbon emissions
Winchester district’s carbon dioxide emissions have fallen over the last decade from all main sources excepting road vehicles. This is the main conclusion of a new report from WinACC (Winchester Action on Climate Change) based on government statistics up to 2016.
Carbon dioxide emissions clearly need to fall to counter global warming. The urgency of the situation was emphasised recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC stated that to limit global warming since pre-industrial times to a relatively safe 1.5°C human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. At current rates 1.5°C warming could be reached within 12 years.
By 2016, the latest year for which statistics are available, the district’s emissions had fallen 24 percent relative to 2004. While this is encouraging it is not sufficient to meet targets based on scientific assessments of the risks from global warming. Today in Hampshire, with around one degree of warming, we are already seeing the damage done to crops (from lack of water), to infrastructure (from flooding caused by heavy rain) and to coastal areas by the combination of storms and rising sea level.
WinACC’s Executive Director, Tom Brenan, said: “This report, coming hot on the heels of the recent IPCC report, indicates both the necessity and the opportunity for urgent action to reduce our emissions. This will require all of us, across the community, business and public sectors to play our part to help limit the damaging impacts of climate change. WinACC will be continuing our work to support change at a local level.”
After falling for eight years in a row emissions in the district from road vehicles have risen steadily since 2013. In 2016 they contributed 43 percent of the district’s emissions, even when emissions on motorways were excluded. The total consumption of petrol and diesel fuel was barely less in 2016 than in 2005. Since 2013 fuel consumption by commercial vehicles has increased steadily whereas that by cars has barely changed. This is not surprising since the number of commercial vehicles, up 36 percent since 2005, has been increasing 3.6 times faster than the number of cars since 2014. Traffic emissions contribute to air pollution too.
Emissions from electricity consumption have fallen dramatically since 2013 as coal-burning power stations have closed and as the contributions from renewable energy, principally offshore wind and onshore solar farms, have grown but they still make up 19 percent of the district’s total emissions.
Gas is mostly used for central heating. Consumption of gas and its emissions in the district have largely flattened out in recent years even though nationally (local figures are not available) less than 40 percent of homes with access to gas have converted to efficient condensing boilers.
The report also presents new modelling results on the impact of land use, land use changes and forestry within the district. Together these factors absorb more carbon dioxide than they emit. This means that the district is a net sink for carbon dioxide with the sink equivalent to around eight percent of the district’s total emissions. The emissions from cropland and land occupied by housing are more than offset by carbon dioxide absorbed by the district’s grassland and forests.
Greenhouse gas emissions in Winchester District: Part VIII, Estimates and trends (2005-2016) is available here.