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G7 Minister pledge, UK Gas Boiler ban & highest global CO2 levels ever

By June 9, 2021 No Comments

The recent virtual meeting of the G7 Ministers responsible for Climate & Environment (20-21 May 2021), has highlighted the Climate Change Emergency once again in the public arena, with recognition from all of the G7 Environment Ministers of the connections between anthropogenic climate change & zoonoses (human impact on climate & zoonotic disease)

Therefore, the Climate & Environment Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the USA, & the Climate & Environment Commissioners of the European Union all agreed the joint climate & environment communiqué & associated G7 documents & recognised the urgency with which action must be taken.

G7 Climate and Environment: Ministers’ Communiqué, London, 21 May 2021

“We, the G7 Ministers responsible for Climate and Environment, met virtually on 20 -21 May 2021.

As we continue to address the ongoing pandemic, we acknowledge with grave concern that the unprecedented and interdependent crises of climate change and biodiversity loss pose an existential threat to nature, people, prosperity and security.

We recognise that some of the key drivers of global biodiversity loss and climate change are the same as those that increase the risk of zoonoses, which can lead to pandemics.

We highlight that urgent and concrete action is needed to move towards global sustainability, further mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as halt and reverse biodiversity loss and environmental degradation.

We recognise that climate change and the health of the natural environment are intrinsically linked and will ensure that the actions we take maximise the opportunities to solve these crises in parallel.” (1)

The UK Government Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution which was announced in November 2020, made bold statements about how the Government plan to take the UK to NetZero by 2050.

  • Point 1: Advancing offshore wind
  • Point 2: Driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
  • Point 3: Delivering new and advanced nuclear power
  • Point 4: Accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
  • Point 5: Green public transport, cycling and walking
  • Point 6: Jet zero and green ships
  • Point 7: Greener buildings
  • Point 8: Investing in carbon capture, usage and storage
  • Point 9: Protecting our natural environment
  • Point 10: Green finance and innovation

One of the more controversial steps the UK Government plan to take to meet NetZero, is a UK wide ban on new gas boilers by 2025. (NB: The ban is initially on new builds)

Alarmingly, fifty years ago only a third of UK homes had central heating. Twenty years later & this had to multiplied dramatically with eighty percent of UK homes then being centrally heated.

With such a vast reliance on gas or oil fired burners, it is no wonder that heating our homes contributes to nearly a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions (2)

But what are the alternatives? Electric heating has always been seen as an expensive alternative to gas, hence why so many homes rely on gas boilers, rather than electric heaters. However, with more renewable energy production & Point 1 & 3 of the 10 point plan focusing clearly on the Government push towards this:

Point 1: Advancing offshore wind

Point 3: Delivering new and advanced nuclear power

the options for lower carbon heating solutions seems to be being considered.

However, despite the 10 point plan & the G7 Statement, reports across the Scientific Media spectrum this week have recorded that Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have hit 419 parts per million (ppm) during the month of May.

Based on geological evidence collected over the six decades scientists have been tracking atmospheric CO₂, this year’s peak appears to be the highest in as long as 4.5 million years. (3)

Therefore, despite the global agenda’s agreed by the Paris Agreement, global climate treaties, the UK 10 point plan, the pledges from the Leaders Summit on Climate change & the global expectations to reduce CO2 now, not in 30-60 years; how have we come to this tipping point?

We recently explored how China’s emissions have hit an all time high, especially in a Post-Pandemic recovery.

The post-pandemic surge means China’s emissions reached a new record high of nearly 12bn tonnes (GtCO2) in the year ending March 2021. This is some 600m tonnes (5%) above the total for 2019. The CO2 surge reflects a rebound from coronavirus lockdowns in early 2020, but also a post-Covid economic recovery that has so far been dominated by growth in construction, steel and cement. (4)

However, they are not the only country to be producing more CO2 now than ever before. The IEA 2021 Global Energy Review states that:

Despite the decline in 2020, global energy-related CO2 emissions remained at 31.5 Gt, which contributed to CO2 reaching its highest ever average annual concentration in the atmosphere of 412.5 parts per million in 2020 – around 50% higher than when the industrial revolution began. (5)

In the United States, CO2 emissions in 2021 are expected to rebound by more than 200 Mt CO2 to 4.46 Gt CO2, yet remain 5.6% below 2019 levels and 21% below 2005 levels. (5)

Economic recovery in India in 2021 is set to push emissions almost 200 Mt higher than 2020, leaving emissions 1.4% (or 30 Mt) above 2019 levels. (5)

Therefore, what does this mean in terms of Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere? Based on the most recent data, all of the evidence points towards an increase in Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere from 412.5 parts per million in 2020, to 419 (ppm) in 2021.

With this in mind, are we in the UK on track to achieve NetZero by 2050? Could global carbon level increases hamper our attempts to be truly NetZero in this time frame? With increases in CO2 year on year, can we reduce global warming to a safe a sustainable level for future generations?

With the post-pandemic rebound reverberating around the globe & with global economies being given an opportunity to bounce back better & greener; surely now would be the time to make the lasting changes to reduce CO2 & in so doing, reduce projected global climate temperature increases to safe levels.

Researched, written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.