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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry

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

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