Detection and Attribution of Regional greenhouse gas Emissions in the UK (DARE-UK)

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway University of London
Department Name: Earth Sciences

Abstract

In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, governments, private companies and individual citizens are taking action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Our project will provide new information that can be used to better evaluate the change in emissions that result from these actions. We will help the UK government track the effectiveness of emissions reductions policies that have been implemented to meet the targets laid out in the Climate Change Act (2008), which mandates that GHG emissions are reduced by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The UK has played a major part in recent scientific and technological advances in emissions reporting and evaluation. Its GHG emission inventory, which is compiled based on data relating to human activities and rates of emission from each activity, is world-leading. Furthermore, the UK is one of only two countries that regularly submits a second estimate of emissions, those derived from atmospheric measurements, as part of its annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) submission. This second "top-down" estimate can be used to assess where uncertainties lie in the inventory and where further development is needed. However, limitations exist in our scientific knowledge and in our technical capabilities that prevent the UK, or any other country, from further improving its emissions reports through the incorporation of atmospheric data. Through the NERC Greenhouse Gas & Emissions Feedback programme, which ended in 2017, we demonstrated the ability to quantify the UK's net national GHG fluxes using atmospheric observations. However, we have not yet been able to separately estimate fossil fuel and biospheric carbon dioxide sources and sinks, or determine the major sectors driving changes in the UK's methane emissions. This proposal will develop new science to address these needs, and pave the way towards the next generation of GHG evaluation methodologies. Our work will span four key areas:

1) Improving models of emissions from individual source and sink sectors to determine when and where GHG emissions to the atmosphere occur from both natural and anthropogenic systems.
2) Utilising new surface and satellite atmospheric GHG observations, such as isotopic measurements of methane and carbon dioxide, and measurements of co-emitted or exchanged gases (oxygen, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ethane) to provide information on emissions from different sectors.
3) Utilising enhanced model-data fusion methods for making use of these new observations and for better quantifying uncertainties.
4) Integrating data streams to determine the highest level of confidence in the UK's emissions estimate.

To improve the transparency of national reports, scientists and policy makers have been strongly advocating for the combination of such methods in the reporting process. The UNFCCC, at its 2017 Conference of Parties, acknowledged the important role that emissions quantified through atmospheric observations could have in supporting inventory evaluation (SBSTA/2017/L.21). Through our close links to the inventory communities in the UK and around the world, the IPCC and to UK policy makers, we can ensure that our work will be used to update and improve the UK's GHG submission to the UNFCCC and will showcase methods of best-practice.

Planned Impact

The credibility and effectiveness of the UK Climate Change Act 2008 and the Paris Agreement requires transparent and accurate reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, in order to track progress towards meeting these ambitious emissions targets. This project develops new science that will improve the accuracy and transparency of the UK's national greenhouse gas emissions reports to the UNFCCC.

Our impact will target the following groups:

1) UK and other national inventory teams: Our work will directly benefit the government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Defra, who are responsible for delivering the GHG inventory under the UNFCCC and Kyoto agreements. Our team comprises compilers for UK inventory sectors (Agriculture and LULUCF), and we will work closely with Ricardo Energy and Environment (contractors with overall responsibility for the national inventory), to ensure pull-through of our findings to the UK inventory. The impact will be improvements in monitoring progress towards climate goals, and ultimately better-informed decisions on how to reach those goals. Our work will also be relevant to inventory teams in other countries who wish to learn from the advances made in this project, particularly those in nearby countries covered by the same atmospheric datasets, e.g. Irish Environmental Protection Agency, European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, European Commission Joint Research Centre. We will work with the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) who report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

2) Next generation of greenhouse gas scientists and policymakers: This work benefits from expertise and synergies between science and policy. We aim to provide training for PhD students, postdocs and for future government staff with careers in relevant areas.

3) The public: The general public are increasingly engaged in climate issues and wish to better understand their country's impact on climate.

We will engage with these users through the following methods/activities:

1) We will present and discuss our developments annually at the UK National Inventory Steering Committee (NISC). These developments will then be incorporated into any inventory improvement plans commissioned by BEIS. We will convene a steering group with representatives from BEIS, Ricardo, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and two related European projects (VERIFY, CHE), to ensure maximum impact for the UK inventory and international emissions evaluation efforts. We will update the UK's National Inventory Report at the outset and then again at the end of the project with the UK's strategy for top-down greenhouse gas emissions quantification. Toward the end of this project, we will organise a meeting at which key stakeholders and representatives of related European projects will meet to discuss their needs and identify synergies.

2) We will continue a highly successful greenhouse gas summer school, but now extend and open it to future government policy makers and inventory compilers, building in new research themes that will be developed through this project. The impact of this will be in helping to form the next generation of scientists and policy makers who are cognisant of the causes of climate change, and the role of atmospheric and terrestrial monitoring in helping us tackle the problem.

3) Our team has a history of effective engagement at events open to the general public. We will continue to represent our work at events such as NERC UnEarthed and Royal Institute Public Lectures. Our team also has a track record for press engagement (e.g. most recently featuring in the BBC "Counting Carbon" documentary), which we will continue throughout this project. Our impact here will be to make the issues understood by a wider audience, allowing them to be engaged in the national debate.

Publications

10 25 50

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Lan X (2021) What do we know about the global methane budget? Results from four decades of atmospheric CH4 observations and the way forward. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Nisbet EG (2022) Rising methane: is there a methane emergency? in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Nisbet EG (2022) The urgent need to cut methane emissions. in National science review

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Nisbet EG (2021) Rising methane: is warming feeding warming? in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Nisbet EG (2021) Atmospheric methane and nitrous oxide: challenges alongthe path to Net Zero. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

 
Description Methane emissions from UK sources can be identified, quantified and their isotopic signatures measured. Since receiving NERC-capital funding (MIGGAS) for a new mobile laboratory to measure methane emissions at UK sources, a range of opportunities and collaborations have emerged and impacts made, such as surveying gas leaks in Glasgoe prior to COP26 (Financial Times article), collaboration with Jersey Farmers Association (ITV Channel Islands news) and this is now feeding into government through consultations and discussions with BEIS and the UK emissions inventory, particularly concerning the distribution of methane sources.
Exploitation Route Identification and characterisation of methane sources and their distribution is being used by the UK government to verify methodology used to produce the UK methane emission inventory and identify discrepancies in the spatial distribution oif emissions.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Meausrement of methane sources will be useful in mitigating UK methane emissions. In particular, biodigesters need attention. Information on biogas plant leaks, farm emissions and gas leaks has been picked up by TV and news agencies, and ongoing consultations with BEIS and Ricardo (NAEI inventory) that have focussed on how to improve the spatial distribution of methane emissions in the inventory and the value of mobile measurements in improving this process.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Invited participation in survey to discuss the future role of greenhouse gas measurements in the UK
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
 
Description Member: Science Advisory Panel, UN International Methane Emissions Observatory (specified commitment in the UN Global Methane Pledge)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a guidance/advisory committee
Impact UN IMEO supports a series of experimental studies, especially with aircraft, to locate and quantify major sources of methane emisisons, especially from the energy industry.
URL https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/energy/what-we-do/imeo
 
Description The future role of measurements in tracking progress on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and targets
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
 
Description Controlled release experiment 
Organisation LiCor Biosciences
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution RHUL provided instruments and survey vehicle for the controlled release experiment
Collaborator Contribution LiCor Biosciences UK brought their new greenhouse gas instrument to the controlled release experiment and fitted this into our survey vehicle NPL provided and set up the controlled release facility
Impact Manuscript in preparation
Start Year 2019
 
Description Controlled release experiment 
Organisation National Physical Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution RHUL provided instruments and survey vehicle for the controlled release experiment
Collaborator Contribution LiCor Biosciences UK brought their new greenhouse gas instrument to the controlled release experiment and fitted this into our survey vehicle NPL provided and set up the controlled release facility
Impact Manuscript in preparation
Start Year 2019
 
Description International Methane Emissions Observatory 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Environment Programme
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Dr. James France acts as Science Advisor to IMEO's Methane Science Studies Programme. Prof Euan Nisbet is an advisory board member.
Collaborator Contribution Development of links to global network of researchers measuring methane
Impact An Eye on Methane: International Methane Emissions Observatory 2022 Report (Roland Kupers, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Giulia Ferrini, Stefan Schwietzke, Erin Tullos, Cynthia Randles, James France, Luis Guanter, Manfredi Caltagirone, Meghan Demeter and Marci Baranski), UNEP, 2022. Multidisciplinary - science and policy
Start Year 2022
 
Description COP26 Innovation Showcase Panel Meeting: 'What role does measurement play in climate action?' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was an online event which was run during the COP26 conference. Methods for using measurements to quantify methane emissions were presented by PhD students, followed by a panel discussion. Mobile greenhouse gas measurements using the MIGGAS equipment were demonstrated. Over 80 delegates attended and Mentimeter was used to gain audience feedback showing an increased understanding of the role that measurements play in quantifying greenhouse gas emissions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Financial Times 'Big Read': Methane hunters: what explains the surge in the potent greenhouse gas? Aug 23, 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Interview and discussions with Financial Times climate team - FT 'Big Read'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.ft.com/content/9ef195d6-dcc3-4378-bb35-2721981d6416
 
Description ITV Jersey intervew 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact ITV Jersey interview with Royal Holloway and Jersey Dairy farmers to explain the mobile measurements being made around farms, to explain the sources of methane emissions in Jersey, how they can be measured, and opportunities to reduce emissions. The recording was broadcast on the TV news and online ' Jersey pioneers testing new methane measuring technology' (18th November 2021).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.itv.com/news/channel/2021-11-18/jersey-pioneers-testing-new-methane-measuring-technology
 
Description Interview for national news 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview by project investigator, Prof. Euan Nisbet with the Guardian newspaper as part of the article "Revealed: 1000 superemitting methane leaks risk triggering climate tipping points, published online 6 March 2023.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/06/revealed-1000-super-emitting-methane-leaks-risk-...
 
Description Invited presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited presentation to the Gas Analysis and Sensing Group 83rd Colloquium, a body consisting of academics, industry and professional practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.gasg.info/?page=pdfdownload&pdfname=83rd%20GASG%20Colloquium%20Programme%20and%20Registr...
 
Description Participation at COP26 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Rebecca Fisher attended COP26 as an observer. Participated in 1-to-1 and small group discussions on the Global methane pledge, and how mobile and isotopic measurements can be used to identify sources that can be reduced.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Workshop with government 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Workshop on "Improving the NAEI representation of gas leakage from distribution networks.' UK methane researchers discussed with government how the emissions from gas distribution could be identified, characterised and better spatially distributed. An outcome of the meeting will be dialogue with gas distrubtion companies aimed at better identification and quantification of leaks. There will be follow up meetings to discuss progress and a plan of action for measurement and modelling of emissions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023