Spotlight Activity: The UK Needs to Do a Better Job in Communicating Its Excellent Climate Data to the General Public
When trying to find data on the UK’s emissions and mitigation efforts, you may stumble across several sources of information. In 2017 the Department for Business, Energy and Industry published a document on the UK’s GHG emissions reductions that presented our progress to date. They found that the UK has reduced its GHG emissions by 43 percent since 1990. The data they published can be viewed below:
Further, the Committee on Climate Change is an independent advisory board to the government, responsible for reporting on the UK’s progress on GHG mitigation. The committee published a progress report in 2018 providing more detail on where the most reductions in emissions are being made. Across all industries, there have been mixed responses in emissions reductions. They found that the Power industry, supplying everything from renewables to coal, is the most motivated to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, whereas the transport industry has been the most reluctant to reduce its emissions over the last 5 years, actually showing an increase.
The Committee on Climate Change also provides data that compares the rate of reductions to GDP growth. This shows that the UK is becoming less reliant on emissions for economic development, which should signify future reductions and sustainability.
Finally, the Department for Energy and Climate Change also published data in November 2018 on emissions reduction strategies for the coming years. They look at how different land use affects the rate of reduction over time, looking at London’s trajectory specifically. They find that by 2025 there will be a 52 percent reduction since 1990 levels, and by 2050 the reductions will reach 71 percent from 1990. Unfortunately, this is not on target for the Paris Agreement, with the UK pledging 80 percent reduction by 2050. It would appear that over time the rate of reductions is decreasing.
There is available data published by the UK government on our emissions trajectory. Yet, it still comes from a variety of sources and is largely inaccessible to the general public. Data tends to be either heavily based on statistics across large graphs or explained through 300-page documents. I suggest narrowing the data sources and providing a clear data set with simple explanations to make it easier for businesses, the public and policy-makers to understand will help create innovative solutions to improving future reduction strategies. Further, there is a large focus on CO2 emissions rather than other greenhouse gasses such as N2O or Methane. Methane has 23 times the effect on the climate as CO2 and should be a key focus when exploring future reduction trajectories, as in this case, it may be more useful to focus on quality rather than quantity. It may also be useful to expand on which type of greenhouse gas comes from which industry to develop these aims.
Status: Falling Behind
Dear Claire Perry,
As the minister for the Department of Energy and Clean Growth, I would like to thank you for your progress so far on the UK efforts to reduce its dependence on coal and move towards renewable energies. However, when trying to find data on the UK’s efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, I found it difficult to find up-to-date and accessible data.
The data published by your department is from mid-2018, and largely consists of graphs, tables and heavy statistics. It may be more beneficial to develop a website that makes mitigation data explicitly clear with a small explanation for where the reductions have been made. For example, which industries are driving the mitigation efforts. Another suggestion is to differentiate between the greenhouse gases as this would make it easier for people to understand where the emissions are coming from and which are most harmful, like methane from agriculture. I believe this will least offer the public greater transparency on the Paris agreement progress in the UK, and give cause for concern and praise where it is due.