Author Archives: Kevin

About Kevin

Kevin Anderson is professor of energy and climate change in the School of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. He is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and is research active with recent publications in Royal Society journals and Nature. He engages widely across all tiers of government; from reporting on aviation-related emission to the EU Parliament, advising the Prime Minister’s office on Carbon Trading and having contributed to the development of the UK’s Climate Change Act. With his colleague Alice Bows, Kevin’s work on carbon budgets has been pivotal in revealing the widening gulf between political rhetoric on climate change and the reality of rapidly escalating emissions. His work makes clear that there is now little chance of maintaining the rise in global temperature at below 2°C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary. Moreover, Kevin’s research demonstrates how avoiding even a 4°C rise demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda and the economic characterisation of contemporary society. Kevin has a decade’s industrial experience, principally in the petrochemical industry. He sits as commissioner on the Welsh Government’s climate change commission and is a director of Greenstone Carbon Management. Kevin is a chartered mechanical engineer and a fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Cycle accident and reflections on our NHS

On the 12th January I took a slide down the road on black ice when my bicycle shot away from beneath me. A few days later and after being transferred to Salford Royal Hospital I underwent a five-hour operation, coming round in the trauma unit where I remain today. Sadly, my pelvis took a bit of a pounding, with the ball of the femur ramming through the ‘acetabulum’ (basically the hip socket) and smashing the bone into multiple pieces. It has now been brought back into something resembling the original shape – held together with a lattice of plates, pins and screws. From here on it’s a slow process of recovery, provisionally no weight-bearing for three months, walking properly by the summer, and then back on the bike by the summer/autumn (or at least that’s my hope). All a bit sore and annoying, but it is what it is and I can only make the best of whatever comes next. I’m optimistically planning a few bikepacking tours for later in the year. 

I’ve been sharing a room with a young man who has had a serious head injury. He looks perfectly well and strong but is highly erratic; screaming, swearing, and physically hard to restrain. So there was no sleep for me for several nights. Yet despite completely disrupted sleep, listening to the unshakable patience of the wonderful nurses and support staff was a deep privilege. What these amazing people offer our society is so much more than that forthcoming from the plethora of celebrities, bankers, professors, etc., yet they are typically paid so little. Our modern world has become obscenely skewed towards favouring the few, of which I have to acknowledge I am one, whilst completely undervaluing those who are the real glue of our society. Making such a mess of my leg is a significant blow to my plans and future – but spending one night reflecting on the humanity just the other side of a thin blue curtain is almost worth the heartache and pain of the leg. Life has its strange twists and turns.

Being thrust bloody and vulnerable into the heart of the NHS, has made me re-evaluate my worldview. Without romanticising, I can genuinely say that I have found the cleaners, porters, support staff and nurses truly inspiring and humbling. With small gestures, gentle words and unstinting patience, all seasoned with an almost magical ability to appropriately blend banter with compassion, they offer a skill set and sense of elevating calm that is as important to recovery as the pins and plates holding my pelvis together.

I was always very uneasy with the rainbows and Thursday pan banging and clapping. The custodians of our most treasured institution need to be rewarded as such; they too have families, rent to pay and aspirations. I knew this before of course, but as with so much of life knowing is insufficient to drive change. I only hope the lessons I learn daily here stay with me when I leave; but I suspect the person coming out of Salford Royal will not be the same as the one that went in – and not just because of the surgeons carefully placed plates and pins. Much more, it is a new appreciation of my responsibilities in literally fighting for the future of our NHS. This is both against powerful political and financial interests keen to see it fragmented, and for a huge increase in the remuneration of those who comprise the soul and beating heart of this truly marvellous institution.

Allocating a carbon budget to individuals

This is a quick response to a question about a ‘carbon budget for life’ (Rosalind Readhead – Twitter 11th Jan 2021; thread at:

A Personal Annual Carbon Budget

Working from the UK carbon budget in our recent paper (A Factor of Two [1]) it would be possible to estimate an annual and reducing carbon budget per person for people in the UK, based on the emissions pathway that accompanies the budget.

But, should such a carbon budget be divided between: 1) all people in the UK (from infant to adult); 2) just among adults (at what age?); 3) per UK household; or 4) is there another more appropriate division?

A Personal Carbon Budget for Life

To estimate a budget for life would be far more complicated and require some very clear assumptions to be made; for example:

Should a 98-year-old get the same remaining carbon for life budget as a ten-year-old?
Should a 16-year-old in 2021 get the same budget as a 16-year-old in 2037?

One way around this may be to use forecasts of population growth and calculate the person/years each year out to say 2040, by when UK CO2 emissions from energy need to be zero (assuming we follow a rapid mitigation pathway starting now). Then, based on mean life expectancy for people of different ages, a remaining carbon budget for life could be estimated. This would then permit a carbon budget for life to be derived for people of different ages from now out to 2040 (i.e. the sum of the person/year budget for each year along the annually declining emissions pathway).

A 1-year-old child in 2021, would have a ‘large’ remaining budget (very likely to live to 2040)
A 50-year-old adult in 2021 would have a ‘moderate’ remaining budget (likely to live to 2040)
A 98-year-old adult in 2021 would have a small remaining budget (unlikely to live to 2040)

For each new baby born, a remaining budget for life could be allocated based on the mean probability of that baby still being alive for each year out to 2040, by when there would be no more UK carbon budget remaining.


In my view, of the two options, a declining annual carbon budget per adult, and based on an emissions pathway that matches the UK’s fair carbon budget for 1.5-2°C (at chosen probabilities/chances of success), would make more sense than a ‘for life’ carbon budget. Tyndall Manchester did some work on a version of this back in 2005 – Domestic Tradable Quotas [2].

As a quantitative guide: emissions from energy in 2020 were around 7 tonnes of CO2 per adult (18 years and older) – this is very approximately 10% lower than in 2019. From the start of 2021 these emissions would need to continue to reduce at a minimum of 10% year on year if the UK is not to renege on its Paris commitments. It is important to note this is for territorial emissions only, but does include aviation and shipping emissions. As a (pre-Covid) guide, around 4.5 tonnes (~60%) of energy emissions arose from the direct use of energy by individuals. These comprised, on average (and very approximately): 2 tonnes for private car travel; 0.5 tonnes non-business aviation; 1.5 tonnes domestic heating (including hot water and cooking); 0.5 tonnes domestic electricity use.

To reiterate, the above values are average levels of emissions, and at a 10% per year cut, if imposed across all adults, would rapidly bring a stark reality to bear on the lifestyles of high-emitting individuals (e.g. policy makers, climate scientists, journalists, barristers, entrepreneurs, et al). Put another way, if the UK’s equitable contribution to the Paris 1.5-2°C commitment was fairly distributed amongst UK citizens, there would be an overnight sea change in the lukewarm response to the much heralded climate emergency. Real zero by 2035-40 is a completely different agenda to net-zero by 2050.


[1] A Factor of Two:

[2] Domestic Tradable Quotas:






Quick response to the PM’s ‘fag-packet’ plan

Nov. 2020

Five years on from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, and the UK Government’s ten-point plan amounts to little more than a rhetorical flourish for which future generations will pay dearly. In the absence of a coordinated, quantitively robust and timely strategy, its piecemeal proposals are very much part of the problem and not a thought-through solution.

Certainly, the increase in wind power is to be welcomed, but the planned 40GW by 2030 is equivalent to around 7% of the UK’s current energy demand. Nuclear is another low-carbon option, currently providing a little over 3% of the nation’s energy consumption, yet the Government’s proposal sees this barely increasing over the coming decade or so. Whilst the plan is upbeat about hydrogen, it sees just a single town using it for heating by 2030. As for the UK’s more than 25 million homes, the plan offers just pennies to retrofit these, scarcely scratching the huge scale of the challenge of making UK homes low-carbon and climate resilient.

In reality the plan is simply a future technology wish list, with a dominant focus on energy supply. It fails to recognise the carbon budget imperative, that requires deep reductions year on year from now. There is no reference to tailoring polices towards the relatively few high emitters responsible for the lion’s share of carbon emissions. Nor does it include a rapid phase out plan for the UK’s own fossil fuel industry, or even a pledge for the Government to stop investing UK tax-payers’ money in fossil fuel projects abroad.

Please note the numbers above are for final energy consumption not just for electricity



A response to the UK Prime Minister’s plan to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030

Authors: Kevin Anderson & Dan Calverley

@KevinClimate; @DanCalverley

This post was also published in the Ecologist and on the DecarboN8 website

The Prime Minister this week (18.11.2020) announced a ‘10-point plan’ for a ‘green industrial revolution’, intended to create jobs and make ‘strides towards net zero by 2050’. Decarbonising road transport features heavily, with measures to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, plus around £2.4 billion of new funding for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, uptake and battery development.

Although at first glance the announcement may sound welcome, in reality it is a delaying tactic. Irrespective of the praise heaped on the ‘plan’, climate change requires immediate action, not a promise for action in ten years.

Waiting until 2030 will lock in emissions from personal transport for two more decades. It also risks locking out low-carbon alternatives to the private car that might otherwise have delivered on the UK’s Paris-derived carbon budget.

The plan passes the buck of mitigating climate change to another government, several electoral cycles down the line. More importantly, it obliges our children to remove colossal quantities of (our) carbon directly from the atmosphere or attempt to live with the consequences of dangerous climate change.

The 10-point plans sits alongside the announcement in August 2020 of over £27 billion investment in road projects.

Far from being a ‘green revolution’, this is simply business as usual, where the predict-and-provide paradigm of car ownership and road-building go hand-in-hand.


In a carbon budget context, a policy pledge to end sales of internal combustion vehicles in ten years’ time categorically fails to address the urgency of the issue. 2030 is too late as the entire Paris-compliant carbon budget for the car sector is used up before the policies even kick in[1].

I’ve written elsewhere about why we must be clear on the difference between ‘net zero’ and real zero. In short, ‘net zero’ assumes the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere at unprecedented scale, allowing emissions from fossil fuels to continue well into the second half of the century.

Should we choose not to gamble and hand to the next generation the burden of developing and rolling out as-yet-unproven (at scale) negative emissions technologies, then we are forced to accept the hard logic of real zero.

In a world constrained by carbon budgets derived from the Paris Agreement, real zero invites a very different policy response to ‘net zero’. The PM’s latest announcement is a case in point.

While a clear market signal to remove petrol and diesel cars is absolutely necessary, the timescale and ambition of the current plan are completely at odds with the immediacy of the climate emergency.

For a fair chance of staying below 2°C, developed countries including the UK must bring about immediate and deep cuts in emissions from all sectors.

That is to say, cuts of 10 to 15% year on year and with immediate effect.

To reiterate … starting now. Not ten years from now.


Cars are typically used for about thirteen years between initial purchase to finally being scrapped. This time-lag means that waiting until 2030 to remove petrol and diesel cars locks in emissions for another two decades.

Given that almost two-thirds of the distance driven on UK roads is by cars under nine years old, new cars bought late in this decade will still be used and emitting carbon well into the next.

Therefore, in the absence of immediate and effective policies to cut emissions, the car sector can be expected to continue to emit at its present rate for the rest of the 2020s and into the 2030s[2].

It has even been speculated that the signalled moratorium may trigger a short-term ‘dash for gasoline’, increasing emissions as manufacturers push their more polluting, higher profit cars, while consumers enjoy a ‘last fling’ with petrol cars.

Also problematic is the ‘hybrid loophole’ in the PM’s plan, whereby new hybrid electric vehicles remain available until 2035[3].

Although hybrids can be driven in electric mode, in reality 63–80% of the miles driven in modern plug-in hybrids are in internal combustion mode – i.e. using petrol or diesel. Again, this locks in continued emissions well into the 2040s for new hybrids bought in the mid-2030s.


Electric vehicles have long been the darlings of technocratic governments, who see EVs as a magic-bullet for decarbonising our society. But favouring EVs as a mitigation mainstay comes with a significant opportunity cost.

Many other key sectors also urgently need a ready supply of zero-carbon electricity. Housing, industry and public services, not to mention freight transport and non-car passenger transport, all need to be rapidly decarbonised through electrification.

Even with a major shift to renewables, zero-carbon energy will remain a scarce resource for years to come. Therefore, a ‘triage’ approach is necessary; the most urgent, non-negotiable cases go to the front of the queue for zero-carbon electricity.

As such, it is neither a wise nor progressive policy to use such a scarce resource to transport a 70kg driver in a 1.5 tonne car a few kilometres to an out-of-town supermarket or to make the school run.


Promoting private car ownership, whether conventional or electric, works against efforts to stimulate other forms of mobility and access to transport, effectively ‘locking out’ other options.

First, there’s the simple opportunity cost of continuing to back private cars. Every pound spent on charging infrastructure or road widening cannot be spent on active or public modes of transport.

Second, the cost of car ownership already excludes a significant proportion of society[4]. This social exclusion may be exacerbated by the difficulty of home EV-charging in densely populated areas.

Moreover, the costly and disruptive roll-out of EV charging infrastructure, in already space-constrained urban settings (thousands of miles of cables and excavations), may hinder active modes if charging points encroach onto footpaths and cycleways.


Betting everything on EVs merely ‘kicks the can down the road’ with respect to a host of other environmental and social issues. It does nothing to address car congestion in our towns and cities. It merely swaps one resource-intensive traffic jam (petrol and diesel cars) for another (EVs).

Car infrastructure (roads, parking, fuelling stations, garages etc) takes up huge swathes of valuable real estate in our urban areas; space which is effectively denied to other users.

To this charge-sheet we must add the pollution and safety burden of widespread car use, in the forms of noise and particulate pollution from tyres, road accidents, and poor health from inactive lifestyles.


Taking account of all these points, we can start to envision a much more environmentally and socially sustainable model of personal mobility. A better option would be to shift away from cars (including EVs) as the default mode for moving around within our towns and cities[5].

To deliver immediate cuts in emissions consistent with a 2°C-derived budget, Government could set a maximum emission standard of 90gCO2/km for all new cars from 2022. This is a level already widely available for all car categories from supermini to family estate (but notably excluding heavier executive and SUV categories).

Tightening the standard by 10-15% each year would send a clear, but non-technology-prescriptive, signal to manufacturers. In all likelihood, electrification will be required for new cars from the mid-2020s onwards as the standard drops below 50gCO2/km.

However, in addition to tighter regulation on car emissions, we should rethink the model of individual car ownership. Instead of extensively rolling out charging points and maintaining car-congested towns and cities, the development of urban and intercity public transport must be prioritised, along with the re-allocation of road-space to active modes.

Connecting with the public transport network, rental hubs could be established on the outskirts of cities where EVs can be picked up for longer journeys. Hence, we might replace streets jammed with multiple cars per household with liveable, car-free cities.

Reducing the number of cars in circulation in this way would work to reduce both total energy and resource use. It would also facilitate a faster turnover of cars within the fleet, as individual cars are utilised more effectively, hastening the throughput of efficiency improvements.


It is now late 2020. Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, we’ve had three decades of talk and empty promises on climate change. All the while, total emissions have continued to rise[6] with a potentially devastating amount of warming already dialled in.

We now face a climate emergency. What we do in the next few years, the next few months, is critical. We are the last generation that might still conceivably prevent environmental catastrophe. Bold leadership and decisive action are urgently needed.

Sadly, set against the scale and urgency of the challenge, this week’s announcement is not a plan fit for purpose – it is dangerous prevarication.


About the authors

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, with a joint appointment between the Universities of Manchester, Uppsala and Bergen. He is a member of the Decarbonate network.
Dan Calverley is an independent researcher with a PhD on decarbonising the UK car sector.



[1] Total carbon emissions from UK passenger cars fluctuated around 69MtCO2 per year for the decade to 2017 (most recent DfT data). This represents 16% of the UK’s territorial carbon emissions (379MtCO2) plus international bunkers (44.6MtCO2). A Paris-compliant carbon budget for the UK of 2800MtCO2 to 3700MtCO2was downscaled from a 1.5- 2°C-based global budget and subsequently allocated between developed and developing country groups (Anderson et al, 2020, Climate Policy, “A Factor of Two”). Using grandfathering to allocate a 16% share of the UK budget gives a budget for the car sector of between 456 and 603MtCO2 from the start of 2020 to the end of the century and beyond. At present rates of emissions from the sector, this budget will be used up inside seven to nine years. That is, the car sector will have consumed its entire remaining budget for a fair chance of staying below 2°C by mid-2026 to mid-2028.

[2] The total amount of emissions from passenger cars has varied little in the last decade, even showing a slight increase in recent years despite the tightening European standard on tailpipe emissions for new cars (in the absence of wider policies, efficiency tends to encourage further use).

[3] To qualify for this exemption, hybrids must be able to be driven ‘a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe’. No detail is given as to what would constitute a significant distance.

[4] Around a quarter of all UK households do not have a car, rising to around half of single adult households (including those with children). ONS data table A47

[5] EVs may make more sense in rural areas, where space for charging and parking is at less of a premium and where population densities are less conducive to public transport.

[6] Global emission of CO2 from energy and industry are now over 60% higher than they were in 1990. Despite oft-repeated statements that UK emissions have reduced by over 40% in the same period, this conveniently excludes emissions from aviation and shipping and from our imports and exports. Factor these in, and UK emissions are down by around 10% (or an average of 0.4% p.a. since 1990). On a per-capita basis, UK consumption-based emissions remain almost twice that of the global average.

A Paris-compliant energy-only carbon budget for the EU27

i.e. what the EU climate law should have included

Authors: Kevin Anderson¹ ² ³ & Isak Stoddard² ³
(with acknowledgements to John Broderick¹)
@KevinClimate; @IsakStoddard

Institutional affiliation
1 Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Engineering, University of Manchester
2 Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS), Uppsala University
3 Natural Resources & Sustainable Development, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University

This briefing note provides a provisional Paris-compliant carbon budget range for the EU27, and offers both accompanying mitigation rates and reduction levels for 2025, 2030 and 2035. It demonstrates that the scale of mitigation required of the EU is an order of magnitude greater than that alluded to in the ‘business as usual’ climate law unveiled by the European Commission on 4/03/20.

The note previously provided the basis for a meeting (20/02/20) between Kevin Anderson and a senior climate and energy advisor to the EC President (Ursula von der Leyen).

The analysis within the note borrows from the approach developed in a peer-reviewed paper currently in press and due for publication in Climate Policy[i] in the coming weeks. Whilst the carbon budget range presented here is provisional, any subsequent refinement would see only marginal adjustment to the values.

Headline findings
[A]  The EU’s Paris-compliant and energy only carbon budget is a maximum of 27GtCO2
        (from 2020 onwards) i.e. under 9 years of current emissions

[B]  This equates to:
        • mitigation rates reaching 10% each year by 2025 and rising to 20% by 2030
        • a 70% cut in total energy CO2 by 2030 (compared with 2018, and 75% cf. 1990)
        • zero-carbon energy by 2035-40 ( across all sectors, including aviation and shipping)

Headline assumptions and conclusions
1) Take the Paris Agreement at face value i.e. “well below 2°C … and … pursuing 1.5°C”
• transposed into probabilities of >66% chance of 2°C (likely) & <33% chance of 1.5°C (unlikely)
• with equity (CBDR&RC[ii]) considered as a genuine commitment (i.e. wealthier nations lead on decarbonisation).

2) All calculations are informed by IPCC SR1.5 headline carbon budgets for the probabilities noted above.

3) The IPCC budgets (matching Paris) are adjusted for energy-emissions only and from the start of 2020. The headline global carbon budget is ~655GtCO2 (billions tonnes) – i.e. 18yrs of current CO2 emissions.

4) Returning to equity and CBDR; the analysis assumes poorer nations collectively peak their CO2 emissions by 2025, before beginning a programme of mitigation, rising year on year and reaching 10% p.a. by ~2040 and fully decarbonising in the early 2050s. This equates to between 520 and 560GtCO2[iii]. NB: this would still see the emissions per person-year for ‘developing country parties’ at a considerably lower level than that for ‘developed country parties'[iv].

5) This leaves ‘developed country parties’ a total carbon budget of between 95 and 135GtCO2 from 2020 onwards.

6) In dividing these budgets between all ‘developed country parties’, we judge ‘grandfathering’[v] as the most appropriate apportionment regime.

7) Building on the above data and assumptions, the EU27 has an energy-only carbon budget of between 21 and 27GtCO2, from 2020 to 2100 and beyond. This equates, at the most, to nine years of the EU27’s current emissions.

8) The larger 27GtCO2 EU budget relates to a constant mitigation rate of over 10% p.a., starting January 1st 2020. However, given it will take time to rapidly ramp up mitigation, and assuming mitigation rates of 2% in 2020 rising 10% by 2025, the rate needs to keep increasing to around 20% by 2030 if the EU emissions are to stay within the higher 27GtCO2 carbon budget value.

Why so different to other analysis?
1) We take the Paris equity steer into account (this is absent from most/all other energy-based budget analysis aligned with Paris and the IPCC SR1.5 budgets).

2) We have no reliance on future generations developing and deploying planetary scale ‘negative emission technologies’ so as to ease today’s mitigation challenges. Similarly, we also do not consider additional earth system feedbacks that are not already included in the SR1.5 budgets, and potentially set to require still more challenging mitigation rates.

NB: we are supportive of a major programme of Research, Development and potential Deployment of sustainable NETs and other ‘natural’ sequestration approaches[vi]. However, to assume they work at the levels included in virtually all IPCC WGIII scenarios (and most other outputs from large modelling groups) is a moral hazard par excellence. Global scale NETs are evoked to keep the mitigation agenda commensurate with the current political and economic growth paradigm. Remove the faith in NETs and most/all analyses for 1.5-2°C yield similar results to those outlined here.

To give a sense of the scale of the ubiquitous assumption on NETs; post 2050 the IPCC scenarios typically postulate a NETs industry similar in size to the current oil and gas industry. However, in 2020 such technologies remain highly speculative, with a few very small laboratory/pilot schemes now operating, with other proposed technologies still in the imagination of academics and tech-entrepreneurs. This faith in utopian technology reflects a deep and systemic bias that has hugely undermined the real scale of the mitigation challenge and misinformed policy makers for many years.


[i] Kevin Anderson , John F. Broderick & Isak Stoddard (2020) A factor of two: how the mitigation plans of ‘climate progressive’ nations fall far short of Paris-compliant pathways, Climate Policy, 20:10, 1290-1304, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2020.1728209

[ii] ‘Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’ (CBDR&RC) is a principle enshrined in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty. Put very simply, the wealthier “developed country parties” need to demonstrate leadership in delivering on mitigation, with the Paris Agreement expressly recognising that “that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties”.

[iii] the mitigation pathways derived in this analysis are far more ambitious than the aggregate of their National Determined Contributions (NDCs). For 2030, emissions implied by their NDCs are over 30% higher than those within our analysis. Moreover, these pathways and associated budgets are notably more ambitious than those linked to effort-sharing schemes (such as the climate equity reference project). This raises critical questions as to the mechanisms and scale of international financing necessary to support the more onerous developing country mitigation pathways.

[iv] This is the language adopted in the Paris Agreement to separate ‘developed’ from ‘developing’ nations when discussing issues of mitigation and financial transfers.

[iv] Grandfathering divides the budgets on the basis of the proportion of average annual emissions in recent years. The reasoning for this choice is detailed in [i].

[vi] Prior to any deployment, differentiation between the NET options would need to identify the range of social and environmental risks and impacts, and judge whether these are more or less acceptable than the implications of not deploying them.

Brief response to the UK Government’s “net-zero” proposal

Whilst in many respects I welcome the headline framing of the Government’s “net-zero” proposal, sift amongst the detail and all is far from rosy

Kevin Anderson
Tyndall Centre – University of Manchester
CEMUS – Uppsala University
June 2019

1) although on the one hand the Government’s “net -zero” proposal is for the UK to make its ‘fair’ contribution to delivering on the Paris Agreement, on the other it is recklessly pursuing UK shale gas (an energy source that is 75% carbon by mass!). Moreover, it recently celebrated both BP’s new Clair Ridge oil platform, with its accompanying quarter of a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, and the new Glengorm gas field, adding a further 100 millions tonnes of CO2. To top it all, they plan to expand Heathrow, facilitating more flights with more fossil fuel consumption and hence more carbon emissions (even with efficiency improvements across the sector).

2) the mitigation proposals of Government and its Committee on Climate Change (the CCC) rely in large measure on future and highly speculative Negative Emission Technologies (NETs)[1]. These technologies exist, at best, as small pilot schemes, and often only in the imagination and computers of professors and entrepreneurs. So in reality we are passing the buck on to our children to invent and deploy technologies to suck the CO2 out of the air that we choose to continue to emit today. The unprecedented and planetary scale of NETs assumed by the Government and the CCC needs to be understood.[2] Already the tentative potential of NETs is being used to undermine the requirement for immediate and widespread decarbonisation, passing further unacceptable burdens and risks onto the next generation.

3) against the advice of their own Committee on Climate Change the UK Government intend to rely on ‘international credits’ whereby they can buy so-called offsets from other countries rather than making the reductions themselves. This is typically paying poorer nations to plant trees, change industrial processes, install renewables, etc. Such developments internationally are necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate commitments, but not as a means for permitting the UK’s ongoing emissions. With the UK’s world leading renewable energy potential we should be making the reductions ourselves not paying others to do it for us.

4) the Government and the CCC foresee emissions from the UK’s aviation sector continuing at today’s very high levels (currently around 10% of UK CO2) out to 2050 and on through subsequent decades. So any claim made of the UK being zero carbon by 2050, is simply not true. The scale of anticipated aviation emissions is such that this single sector will consume up to 40% of the UK’s Paris-compliant carbon budget, putting still further mitigation pressures on schools, hospitals and businesses to compensate for this privileged sector.

5) the share of the global ‘carbon budget’ that the UK Government and its Committee on Climate Change assume appropriate for the UK, is far higher than any defensible quota. So the UK not only has significant responsibility for historical emissions, but it is planning to take a disproportionately large slice of the remaining global carbon pie; colonialism thriving in 2019!

Finally, and based on work with University of Manchester & Uppsala colleagues, to meet its Paris obligations the UK must achieve zero-carbon energy by around 2035; that’s ‘real-zero’ not ‘net-zero’. This requires an immediate programme of deep cuts in energy emissions rising rapidly to over 10% p.a.; such an economy-wide agenda will need to embed equity at its core if it is to succeed mathematically and politically, as well as morally.

[1] NETs is also variously referred to as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR), and previously as one form of Geo-engineering. Two other acronyms are commonly used, but are related to particular technology routes. Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS).

[2] Whilst a fully decarbonised energy system is achievable, there will remain some non-CO2 greenhouse gases from agriculture and food. These can certainly be reduced by changes in diets and agricultural practices, but some emissions of methane and nitrous oxide will inevitably remain. In this regard, a well-funded programme of research, development and potential deployment of NETs is required alongside improvement of ‘natural’ processes of sequestration, including forestry management, reforestation and potentially afforestation.

[3] The carbon budget refers to the total quantity of carbon dioxide emissions that we can dump in the atmosphere from now and out across the century if we are not to renege on our Paris 1.5-2 degree Celsius commitments. Continue reading

Capricious foes, Big Sister & high-carbon plutocrats: irreverent musings from Katowice’s COP24

… the time for action is not at COP25, but now and during the intervening months …

Four weeks on and the allure of Christmas and New Year festivities fade into the grey light of a Manchester January – a fine backdrop for revisiting December’s COP24

1) An Orwellian tale: myths & hidden enemies
A quick glance at COP24 suggests three steps forward and two steps back. But whilst to the naïve optimist this may sound like progress, in reality it’s yet another retrograde bound towards a climate abyss. As government negotiators play poker with the beauty of three billion years of evolution, climate change emissions march on. This year with a stride 2.7% longer than last year – which itself was 1.6% longer than the year before. Whilst the reality is that every COP marks another step backwards, the hype of these extravaganzas gives the impression that we’re forging a pathway towards a decarbonised future.

For me the fantasy-land of COP24 was epitomised at the UK’s ever-busy Green is Great stand. Here, the nation that kick-started the fossil-fuel era, regaled passers-by with a heart-warming tale of rapidly falling emissions and a growing green economy. This cheerful narrative chimed with those desperate to believe these annual junkets are forging a decarbonised promise-land. Despite my cynicism, I was nevertheless surprised just how pervasive the UK’s mirage had become.

Adjacent to Brexit Blighty’s pavilion was the WWF’s Panda Hub. Here I attended a session at which two British speakers offered advice to the New Zealand government on their forthcoming energy law. The mantra of the UK being at the vanguard of climate action was reiterated by a ‘great & good’ of the NGO world and by the Director of Policy at a prestigious climate change institute. A similar fable from a couple of Government stooges would not have been a surprise. But surely the NGO and academic communities should demonstrate greater integrity and a more discerning appraisal of government assertions?

If you ignore rising emissions from aviation and shipping along with those related to the UK’s imports and exports, a chirpy yarn can be told. But then why not omit cars, cement production and other so-called “hard to decarbonise” sectors? In reality, since 1990 carbon dioxide emissions associated with operating UK plc. have, in any meaningful sense, remained stubbornly static.[1] But let’s not just pick on the UK. The same can be said of many self-avowed climate-progressive nations, Denmark, France and Sweden amongst them. And then there’s evergreen Norway with emissions up 50% since 1990.

Sadly the subterfuge of these supposed progressives was conveniently hidden behind the new axis of climate-evil emerging in Katowice[2]: Trump’s USA; MBS’s Saudi; Putin’s Russia; and the Emir’s Kuwait – with Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, quietly sniggering from the side-lines. But surely no one really expected more from this quintet of regressives. It’s the self-proclaimed paragons of virtue where the real intransigence (or absence of imagination) truly resides. When it comes to commitments made in Paris, the list of climate villains extends far and wide – with few if any world leaders escaping the net.

2) Let them eat cake: a legacy of failure & escalating inequity
How is it that behind the glad-handing of policy makers and the mutterings of progress by many academics, NGOs and journalists, we continue to so fundamentally fail?

On mitigation, endless presentations infused with ‘negative emissions’, hints of geo-engineering and offsetting salved the conscience of Katowice’s high-carbon delegates. But when it came to addressing issues of international equity and climate change, no such soothing balm was available. I left my brief foray into the murky realm of equity with the uneasy conclusion that, just as we have wilfully deluded ourselves over mitigation, so we are doing when it comes to issues of fairness and funding.

COP after COP has seen the principal of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) weakened. Put simply, CBDR requires wealthier nations (i.e. greater financial capacity) with high-emissions per capita (i.e. greater relative historical responsibility for emissions) to “take the lead in combating climate change”. This was a central tenet of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and specifically committed such wealthy nations to peak their emissions before 2000. Virtually all failed to do so.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol established binding but weak emission targets for these nations, with the intention of tightening them in a subsequent ‘commitment period’. The all-important second ‘commitment period’ was never ratified – partly because a new ‘regime’ for international mitigation was anticipated.

In 2015, and to wide acclaim, the new regime emerged in the guise of the Paris Agreement. This saw the dismantling of any legally binding framework for wealthier high CO2/capita countries to demonstrate leadership. Instead nations submitted voluntary bottom-up mitigation plans based on what they determined was their appropriate national responsibility for holding to a global rise of between 1.5 and 2°C. True to form, world leaders dispensed with any pretence of integrity, choosing instead to continue playing poker with physics & nature. Even under the most optimistic interpretation of the collective nonsense offered, the aggregate of world leaders’ proposals aligned more with 3.5°C of warming than the 1.5 to 2°C that they had committed to.

So, has the shame of repeated failure on mitigation initiated greater international funding for those poorer nations vulnerable to climate impacts and in the early phases of establishing their energy systems?

In Copenhagen ‘developing’ nations agreed to produce mitigation plans, with the understanding that their “means of implementation” would attract financial support from the wealthier hi-emitters. Move on to Paris, and the wealthy nations flex their financial muscles and begin to backtrack. Rather than deliver a new and anticipated post-2020 finance package, they chose to extend what was supposed to be their $100billion per year ‘floor’ (i.e. starting value) out to 2025. To put that in perspective, $100billion equates to one twenty-eighth of the UK’s annual GDP – and even this paltry sum is proving difficult to collect from rich nations.

Surely COP24 couldn’t belittle poor nations further? Yet the Katowice text stoops to new lows. Funding initially intended to mobilise action on mitigation and adaptation is transposed into various financial instruments, with the very real prospect of economically burdening poorer countries with still more debt.

3) Big Sister & ‘badge-less’ delegates
Finally, I want to touch on something far outside my experience and probably one of the most damning aspects of the COPs that I’ve become aware of.

As a professor in the gentle world of academia, I can speak wherever I’m able to get a forum. I can explain my analysis in direct language that accurately reflects my judgements – free from any fear of being actively shut down. Certainly, there are academics (usually senior) who favour backstabbing over face to face engagement, but typically their comments are later relayed via their own (and more honest) Post-Doc & PhD colleagues. And if I find myself on a stage with climate Glitterati & accidently step on a few hi-emitting toes – the worse I face is an insincere smile and being crossed off their Christmas card list. But such bruising of egos and prestige is relatively harmless. Elsewhere however this is not the case – for both early career academics and civil society.

At COP24 I spoke at some length with both these groups. Not uncommonly early career researchers feared speaking out “as it would affect their chances of funding”. This specific example arose during a national side event on the miraculous low-carbon merits of coal and extractive industries. However, similar language is frequently used to describe how hierarchical structures in universities stifle open debate amongst researchers working on short-term contracts. Given senior academics have collectively and demonstrably failed to catalyse a meaningful mitigation agenda, fresh perspectives are sorely needed. Consequently, the new generation of academics and researchers should be encouraged to speak out, rather than be silenced and co-opted.

Turning to wider civil society, I hadn’t realised just how tightly constrained their activities were, or that they are required to operate within clear rules. At first this appears not too unreasonable – but probe a bit further and the friendly face of the UNFCCC morphs into an Orwellian dictator. Whilst country and industry representatives can extol the unrivalled virtues of their policies and commercial ventures, – civil society is forced to resort to platitudes and oblique references. Directly questioning a rich oil-based regime’s deceptions or even openly referring to Poland’s addiction to “dirty “coal is outlawed. By contrast eulogising on the wonders of clean coal is welcomed, as is praising a government’s mitigation proposals – even if they are more in line with 4°C than the Paris commitments.

All this is itself disturbing. Whilst the negotiators haggle over the colour of the Titanic’s deckchairs and how to minimise assistance for poorer nations, the UNFCCC’s overlord ensures a manicured flow of platitudes. The clever trick here is to facilitate the occasional and highly choreographed protest. To those outside the COP bubble, such events support the impression of a healthy balanced debate. National negotiators with their parochial interests and hydrocarbon firms with their slick PR, all being held to account by civil society organisations maintaining a bigger-picture & long-term perspective. But that is far from the truth.

For civil-society groups getting an “observer” status badge is an essential passport to the COPs. These are issued by the UNFCCC and can easily be revoked. Without ‘badges’, or worse still, by forcibly being “de-badged” (as it’s referred to), civil society delegates have very limited opportunity to hold nations and companies to account or to put counter positions to the press. Such tight policing has a real impact in both diluting protests and, perhaps more disturbingly, enabling nations and companies to go relatively unchallenged. The latter would be less of a concern, if the eminent heads of NGOs were standing up to be counted. But over the years the relationship between the heads of many NGOs and senior company and government representatives has become all too cosy. Witness the UK Government’s decoupling mantra forthcoming from the lips of one of the UK’s highest profile NGO figures.

So what level of ‘control’ is typically exerted at COPs? To avoid compromising badges for those wishing to attend future UNFCCC events, I can’t provide detail here, but the range is wide: highlighting the negative aspects of a country or company’s proposals or activities; displaying temporary (unauthorised) signs; asking too challenging questions in side events; circulating ‘negative’ photographs or images; and countering official accounts. In brief, criticising a specific country, company or individual is not allowed in material circulated within the conference venue. Previously, some civil-society delegates have had to delete tweets and issue a UNFCCC dictated apology – or lose their badges. This year, and following a climate-related protest in Belgium, those involved were subsequently stopped from entering Poland and the Katowice COP; so much for the EU’s freedom of speech and movement.

If the COP demonstrated significant headway towards delivering on the Paris agreement, perhaps there would be some argument for giving the process leeway to proceed unhindered by anything that may delay progress. But no amount of massaging by the policy-makers and the UNFCCC’s elite can counter the brutal and damning judgement of the numbers. Twenty-four COPs on, annual carbon dioxide emissions are over 60% higher now than in 1990, and set to rise further by almost 3% in 2018.

4) Conclusion
It’s a month now since I returned from the surreal world of COP24. I’ve had time to flush out any residual and unsubstantiated optimism and remind myself that climate change is still a peripheral issue within the policy realm. The UK is an interesting litmus of just how fragmented government thinking is. A huge effort went into the UK’s COP presence – yet back at home our Minister for Clean Growth celebrates the new Clair Ridge oil platform and its additional 50 thousand tonnes of CO2 per day (a quarter of a billion tonnes over its lifetime). Simultaneously, the government remains committed to a new shale gas revolution whilst plans are afoot for expanding Heathrow airport and the road network.

COP can be likened to an ocean gyre with the ‘axis of evil’, Machiavellian subterfuge and naïve optimism circulating with other climate flotsam and with nothing tangible escaping from it. Twenty-four COPs on, questions must surely be asked as to whether continuing with these high-carbon jamborees serves a worthwhile purpose or not? Thus far the incremental gains delivered by the yearly COPs are completely dwarfed by the annual build-up of atmospheric carbon emissions. In some respects the Paris Agreement hinted at a potential step change – but this moment of hope has quickly given way to Byzantine technocracy – the rulebook, stocktaking, financial scams, etc.; not yet a hint of mitigation or ethical conscience.

But is this jettisoning of COPs too simple? Perhaps international negotiations could run alongside strong bilateral agreements (e.g. China and the EU)? Stringent emission standards imposed on all imports and exports to these regions could potentially lead to a much more ambitious international agenda. The US provides an interesting and long-running model for this approach. For just over half a century, California has established increasingly tighter vehicle emission standards, each time quickly adopted at the federal level by the Environmental Protection Agency. Clearly internationalising such a model would have implications for WTO. But in 2018, and with global emissions still on the rise, perhaps now is the time for a profound political tipping point where meaningful mitigation takes precedent over political expediency?

Of course, the COPs are much more than simply a space for negotiations. They are where a significant swathe of the climate community comes together, with all the direct and tacit benefits physical engagement offers. But did Katowice, Fiji-Bonn, Marrakech or even Paris represent the pinnacle of high-quality and low carbon discussion and debate? Could we have done much better? Perhaps established regional COP hubs throughout the different continents of the world, all with seamless virtual links to each other and the central venue. Could journalists have listened, interviewed and written from their offices? Could civil society have engaged vociferously in their home nations whilst facilitating climate vulnerable communities in having their voices heard? Almost fifty years on from the first moon landing, are the challenges of delivering high-quality virtual engagement really beyond our ability to resolve?

If the COPs are to become part of the solution rather than continuing to contribute to the problem, then they need to undergo a fundamental transformation. Moreover the UNFCCC’s elite needs to escape their Big Sister approach and embrace rather than endeavour to close down a wider constituency of voices. Neither of these will occur without considerable and ongoing pressure from those external to, as well as within, the UNFCCC. The time for action is not at COP25, but now and during the intervening months.

Lowlights of COP24
i) Several climate glitterati & their entourages again jet in and parade around making vacuous noises. This would be a harmless aside if it were just a tasteless comedy act, but it is these carbon bloaters and their clamouring sycophants that set much of the agenda within which the rest of us work. Whilst they remain the conduit between the Davos mind-set and the research community, climate change will continue to be a failing techno-economic issue, ultimately bequeathed to future generations.
ii) The pathetic refusal of several nations to formally ‘welcome’ the IPCC’s 1.5°C report (and I say this as someone who has serious reservations about the mitigation analysis within the report).
iii) The blatant travel-agency nature of many of the national pavilions – with the periodic glasses of bubbly and exotic nibbles undermining the seriousness of the issues we were supposed to be there to address.
iv) The level of co-option, with academics and NGOs all too often singing from official Hymn sheets.
v) The absence of younger voices presenting and on panels.

Highlights of COP24
i) Amy Goodman and the excellent Democracy Now (DN) team providing a unique journalistic conduit between the COPs and the outside world. Certainly DN has a political leaning, but this is not hidden. Consequently, and regardless of political inclination, any discerning listener can engage with the rich and refreshingly diverse content of DN’s reporting. For a candid grasp of just where we are (or are not) in addressing climate change Amy’s full interviews give time to extend well beyond the polarising headlines preferred by many journalists and editors.
ii) Listening to John Schellnhuber call for “system change” and “a new narrative for modernity”. John is arguably the most prestigious climate scientist present at COPs and the science darling of ‘the great & the good’ (from Merkel to the Pope). Whilst many others in Professor Schellnhuber’s exalted position have long forgone their scientific integrity, John continues to voice his conclusions directly and without spin. I really can’t exaggerate just how refreshing this is. I may not agree with all he has to say, but I know that what he is saying is carefully considered and sincere.
At the other end of the academic and age spectrum was the ever-present voice of Greta Thunberg soaring like a descant above the monotonic mutterings of the status-quo choir. We need many more voices from her generation prepared to boldly call out the abysmal and ongoing failure of my generation. Applying Occam’s razor to our delusional substitutes for action, this fifteen year old (now sixteen) revealed just how pathetic our efforts have been. In so doing Greta opened up space for a vociferous younger generation to force through a new and constructive dialogue.

[1] An actual fall of around 10% in 28 years (i.e. under 0.4% p.a.)
[2] The group of national leaders who refused to “welcome” the IPCC special report into 1.5°C (SR1.5).

For a review of the COP23 (Bonn-Fiji) see:Personal reflections on COP23
An edited version was published in the Conversation: Hope from Chaos: could political upheaval lead to a new green epoch

For a review of the Paris COP21 see: The hidden agenda: how veiled techno-utopias shore up the Paris Agreement
An edited version was published in Nature: Talks in the city of light generate more heat

Trump – the climate’s secret champion?

Cutting the social cost of carbon to $1/ton reveals the charade that’s supported a quarter of a century of inaction on climate change.

Kevin Anderson[1]
Dec. 2018

This is piece written at the request of the New Scientist following the Trump administration signalling its intention to reduce the ‘social cost of carbon’ from around $50 to $1/ton. This is a pre-edit (and longer) version of that published by the New Scientist and available at: Putting a price on CO2 is a smokescreen that hides its human cost


To an economist, Judas simply underestimated Christ’s marginal value – he got the price wrong. Rather than settling for thirty pieces of silver, he should have held out for sixty, or perhaps even ninety pieces. But to a philosopher, and probably most non-economists, putting a price on your best friend, your child, husband or mother is a ‘category mistake’. The rich, contextual and heterogeneous world in which we live can never be adequately reduced to a single homogeneous index, a Dollar, Euro or Yuan. But that is exactly what the ‘social cost of carbon’ claims to do!

Cut away the economic niceties and the social cost of carbon is little more than an attempt by a particular hue of economists to put a price on the global scale impacts of climate change, from now, throughout this century, and on across centuries to come. Such hubris is the preserve of a select group of typically wealthy, white and high-emitting men[2] in the Northern hemisphere. Sat behind computers in highly industrialised countries, they price the impact of their and our carbon-profligacy on poor, low-emitting, climate-vulnerable, and geographically distant communities. A dollar value is put on the devastation a strengthened tornado wreaks on small coastal towns, financially valuing the people killed, the destroyed homes and destitute neighbourhoods.

Add to this, a guess of the cost to our children of their climate changing too rapidly for them to adapt their physical, social and institutional infrastructures; exacerbated floods, droughts, extreme weather and human migration. Then price in still further warming later in the century, loss of pollinating insects, destruction of virtually all coral reefs, major die back of tropical forests, sea level rises and acidifying oceans.

It doesn’t end there. An emergent property of the ‘social cost of carbon’ is that it can never be too high to raise fundamental questions of today’s dominant economic model. This massaging of costs is achieved by two principal ruses. First, the impact on the poor arising from the emissions of the wealthy is underplayed by valuing such impacts against the low economic ‘worth’ of those suffering them. In economic terms, the models assume the marginal value of money is reasonably constant; the value of $1 to a wealthy high emitter is not too dissimilar to that of a poor Bangladeshi shrimp farmer. Second, the impacts on future generations arising from our emissions are ‘discounted’. Certainly discounting is a live debate between the market evangelists arguing for high levels of discounting (~7%) and the green-growthers suggesting something a bit lower (3%). A child conceived now, and suffering ¥10M (~€1.3M) of impacts caused by emissions from their parent’s generation, would, when aged 50, see those very real impacts wiped off today’s balance sheet at 7% and all but ignored at 3%. Discounting the future by an individual can perhaps be understood as a natural consequence of their certain mortality. But, in many respects mortality is an irrelevant concept for a community that, by definition, is inter-generational and hence “quasi-immortal”.

Could Trump’s effective rejection of the ‘social cost of carbon’ catalyse our awakening from the economist’s morphine? Despite political rhetoric, techno-utopian claims and financial valuations of climate change, emissions in 2018 are almost 65% higher than in 1990, and look set to have risen by almost 3% across this year. So what’s the alternative?

Climate change is a deeply political issue – not one amenable to ‘expert’ takeover. But here, we’re in reasonably good shape. The rightly messy and international political process has already judged the thresholds and time-dependency of impacts collectively deemed appropriate to accept and avoid. This has been informed, but not determined, by science. The 1.5 to 2°C commitments enshrined in the Paris Agreement capture these impact thresholds and, combined with climate science, provide a quantitative carbon budget range adequate for evaluating the appropriateness of different mitigation options.

What we lack is not spurious financialisation of deeply human and ecological values, but the courage and integrity to put in place the suites of measures necessary to deliver on our commitments. This is, and will not, be easy – all the more because cost-optimisation models have reinforced the fondness of us high-emitters for delay over action. Certainly, a price on carbon may be one of many tools employed to bring about rapid decarbonisation. But here price is solely an instrumental mechanism to help initiate change, and in no way reflects a unified metric of value.

Within the political process of responding to climate change, the ‘social cost of carbon’ and the cost-optimisation models reliant on it, are part of the problem, not the solution.


[1] Professor of Energy and Climate Change; University of Manchester (UK)
Professor of Climate Change Leadership; Uppsala University (Sweden)

[2] I am often asked, usually privately, why I note the race and gender element in addressing climate change. I admit to finding it personally uncomfortable bringing it to the fore, particularly as I am a white man who is not well versed on issues of race and gender. But this is really the point. Well-meaning people who look like me dominate formal assessments of climate change. And whilst I’m sure ‘we’ endeavour to be ‘neutral’ in framing our analysis, and certainly our backgrounds differ, we inevitably are highly influenced by how white men living in wealthy nations are typically treated. Consequently, when our analysis relates to deeply social and cultural issues, such as the impacts of climate change, we need to openly acknowledge how our analysis is inevitably coloured by who we are. I am not suggesting that those of us working on formal assessments of climate change are all the same, but it would be churlish not to recognise that, even in 2018, race and gender are important factors in our evolving make-up.
(I do not want this endnote to expand beyond its current length, but this is a sensitive issue that whilst I am ill-equipped to address properly nevertheless cannot continue to be ignored. Consequently, if anyone more au fait with these issues thinks I have wildly misread or misunderstood the situation, I would be happy to consider rewording this note.)

Will Poland’s COP24 Presidency and its addiction to coal undermine ambitious global climate goals?

By Kevin Anderson[1] and Magdalena Kuchler[2]
Dec. 2018

[1]Prof. Energy and Climate Change, CEMUS, Uppsala University
and Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester

[2]Senior Lecturer, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development,
Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University

This year’s round of climate change negotiations (COP24, the twenty-fourth meeting of the ‘conference of the parties’) is being hosted by the Polish city of Katowice – the proud centre of the countries thriving coal industry and the powerhouse of the Government’s proposed energy policy.

Katowice was built on “black gold”, the colloquial name for coal, with around 50 collieries operating within the city limits through until the 1930s. Today, as Katowice endeavours to rebrand itself as a city of economic and industrial transformation, twenty-two of Poland’s remaining twenty-three hard coal mines are sited within fifty kilometres of the city, producing more hard coal than any other EU region.

If COP24 coincided with Poland ushering in a clean energy revolution, then inviting the world’s policy makers, diplomats, scientists and NGOs to lend support to such a transformation would be understandable. But in stark contrast, Poland’s draft energy policy is set to lock the country into a high carbon fossil fuel future for many decades to come, in essence, to reject the Paris Agreement and embrace a latent form of climate denial. So why is the Polish government hosting its third COP in eleven years?

The Paris Agreement established a global commitment to reduce emissions in line with holding the rise in temperature to “well below 2°C” and to pursue the even more ambitious target of 1.5°C. Negotiators will be gathering in Katowice to compose the “rule book” for aligning national mitigation with Paris and for increasing financial support to poorer nations. Once established, this rule book will likely remain the principal framework of international guidance for many years to come. By hosting COP, the Polish Government can apply the subtle influence of the COP presidency to constrain the level of international, and particularly EU, ambition. Early signs from Michal Kurtyka, the COP24 president and Poland’s former Deputy Minister of Energy, suggests he will resist aligning the EU’s mitigation policies with the Paris 2°C commitment, let alone consider the rapid and deep reductions called for in the recent IPCC 1.5 °C and UN Emissions Gap Reports.

To understand the deep desire to thwart an ambitious rule book, it is necessary to recognise how deeply embedded coal is in Poland’s industrial history, how far removed from Paris the country’s existing energy system is, and the depth to which fossil fuels are core to the Government’s energy plans.

The notion of Poland as a country that “stands on coal” was enabled and fuelled by abundant resources of both hard coal and lignite. This indigenous coal played a key role in rebuilding the country after the Second World War, with the subsequent communist period overseeing a peak in production during the 1980s. Following the collapse of communism, the new and democratic government viewed Poland’s coal ‘monoculture’ as a challenge to the development of a progressive society. “Black gold” provided 97% of electricity generated in 1990, a legacy successive governments have struggled to escape. Although Poland meets the Kyoto commitments, the bulk of its emission reductions were a consequence of the prolonged recession accompanying the country’s economic transition. Since 2000, however, reductions in emissions have stalled, with some small increase evident in recent years.

Today a quarter of urban households still burn coal directly in domestic boilers, rising to over three quarters in rural zones. Apart from the carbon dioxide emissions, smoke from domestic chimneys combined with an inefficient housing stock gives rise to serous issues for local air quality, with very high levels of suspended particulates leading to thick smog with accompanying health impacts.

When it comes to electricity generation, 90% is from fossil fuels, with almost 80% from coal. However, the sheer scale of lock-in is only evident when reviewing the Government’s proposed energy plan – which is really a much narrower ‘electricity’ plan. By 2040, their draft policy sees fossil fuel electricity generation drop to a little over 50%, but set against a backdrop of rising electricity demand, this represents a real fall in fossil-fuelled generation of less than 20%. Moreover, the Polish Energy Ministry insists that the share of coal in national electricity will remain at over 60% well into the 2030s. What small reductions are proposed depend entirely on a new nuclear power plant and offshore wind farms. At the same time the Government intends to phase out onshore wind. Away from electricity, the plan provides much less detail, suggesting ongoing use of fossil fuels for both heating and transport.

Poland’s historical and contemporary lock-in to coal poses a huge risk to the forthcoming negotiations. To those unfamiliar with the protracted COP process, Katowice may appear little more than a detailed technical discussion. However to the dedicated few intimately engaged in the process, Katowice is where the fine words of Paris are translated into something more concrete. Without a rule book, or something similar, Paris remains as little more than a rhetorical aspiration. More worrying still, an anaemic rule book risks sustaining a political appetite for ongoing delay and only minor adjustments to business as usual. If the international community is to respond with purpose to the unequivocal evidence linking ongoing fossil fuel use with climate impacts, it needs a rule book informed by the science and aligned with the explicit Paris commitments. The Polish presidency is key to this. One can only hope that the highly educated and able Michal Kurtyka has the courage and invention to see beyond the short-term interests of his nation’s fading coal industry and support a rule book and just transition to a rapidly decarbonised future.

The University of Manchester to demonstrate global leadership by making an equitable contribution to tackling climate change

This proposal is for an energy-based 2°C carbon budget to guide all UoM operations and strategic planning

This submission is to the UoM “Big Ideas” call; Nov. 2018

Corresponding author: Kevin Anderson
(there are 29 UoM signatories to the proposal, including post-docs, PhDs, PS staff and academics)

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes clear the unprecedented scale and timeframe of the mitigation challenge facing the global community if it is to deliver on the commitments enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

Academia has been central to quantifying and qualifying the global and science-based ‘carbon budgets’ accompanying the Paris 1.5 and 2°C thresholds.[1] Moreover, University of Manchester academics have led on developing a carbon budget framework for the UK (now embedded in the 2008 Climate Change Act), the devolved administrations and, within the last two years, Greater Manchester Combined Authorities (GMCA) and Manchester City Council (MCC).[2]

The “Big Idea” outlined here, is for the University of Manchester to demonstrate its confidence in the veracity of its academics’ research and to fulfil its role as a Manchester, UK and global leader on climate change. Specifically, we propose that the University establish and adopt a comprehensive carbon budget framework to underpin all its future activities and development. To ensure a relatively robust and manageable accounting regime, the budget would relate specifically to energy use, including operational emissions arising from its research, teaching and knowledge exchange activities, along with the running of estates and university-related travel.[3] The most obvious approach would be to borrow the scientific method and analysis developed by Tyndall Manchester academics and used to derive equity-based 2°C mitigation rates for GMCA and MCC.

The University already takes an important stand on a range of issues, race and gender equality amongst them. It is also a recent signatory to ‘The SDG Accord’ requiring it to “embed the Sustainable Development Goals into our education, research, leadership, operations, administration and engagement activities”. Underpinning SDG 13, the IPCC’s 1.5°C report emphasises how climate change is an existential challenge that will impose devastating impacts on poor, climate vulnerable and typically ‘global south’ communities. Furthermore and as emphasised by the UN, “Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women”. Consequently, the proposed University carbon budgets would have a strong scientific foundation, resonate with its commitments to race and gender equality and align closely with the University’s third (and unique) pillar of ‘Social Responsibility’.

A Russell Group University embedding such academic integrity and moral leadership in its daily operation and strategic planning would lend support to policy makers endeavouring to meet the challenges posed by climate change, as well as to the wider international community.

[1] Carbon budgets put a constraint on the total global quantity of emissions (normally measured in billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide – GtCO2) that can be released from today and on throughout and beyond the century. The budgets relate to a given probability range of remaining below a specific temperature rise; for example a 66 to 100% chance of stabilising the global temperature rise at or below 2°C.

[2] Away from the UK, Tyndall Manchester has contributed evidence to the European Commission’s assessment of the EU’s Paris-based carbon budget range; it has made similar submissions to the Swedish parliament and is currently developing regional carbon budgets for almost half of Sweden’s Län (regional governments) and for the smaller Kommuner (local councils).

[3] Over time a complementary consumption-based accounting regime could be developed to provide guidance on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions associated with purchases of equipment, materials in building projects and food consumed on campus.

Signatories to the proposal:
Prof. Kevin Anderson. Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Prof. Teresa Anderson, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
Prof. Adisa Azapagic, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science
Dr. Daniel Bailey, School of Social Sciences
Lisa Bell, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Dr John Broderick, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Claire Brown, Power Networks CDT
Simon Bullock, Power Networks CDT
Philippa Calver, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Timothy Capper, Power Networks CDT
Teresa Chilton, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Prof. Ian Cotton, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Dr. Alejandro Gallego Schmid, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Dr. Claire Hoolohan, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Alistair Hudson, Whitworth Art Gallery
Dr Jaise Kuriakose, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Prof. Alice Larkin, School of MACE
Andrew Little, Power Networks CDT
Dr. Sarah Mander, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Dr. Carly McLachlan, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Prof. Tim O’Brien, School of Physics and Astronomy
Prof. John O’Neill, School of Social Sciences
James Mason, Doctoral Training Programme
Prof. Matthew Paterson, School of Social Sciences
Dr. Kate Scott, School of Environment, Education and Development
Dr. Maria Sharmina, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Amrita Sidhu, Tyndall Centre, School of MACE
Dr. Laurence Stamford, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science
Esme Ward, Manchester Museum