Interview: UK emissions and energy scenarios

Maria Sharmina, Doctoral Researcher at the Sustainable Consumption Institute and affiliated to Tyndall Centre Manchester, answers questions from MCFly volunteer Kate Matthews, ahead of her “lecture and a curry” on Tuesday 13th March at the University of Manchester Students Union (all welcome!).”

What are your thoughts on current UK emissions targets?
The UK emissions target is, at the moment, 80% reduction by 2050 compared to the 1990 level and there is a pathway consisting of four carbon budgets to achieve that target. I think the budgets are a really good idea and they were introduced after the Tyndall Centre did research on carbon budgets so it was an incentive. The over-arching targets itself, 80% by 2050, doesn’t seem very informative because it is an end-point target and is based on annual level of emissions compared to the carbon budget. In the talk [on Tuesday 13th] I am going to discuss why it is better to use the carbon budget rather than the end-point target.

Even with even with these targets there is currently a planning application for a new coal-fired power station in Scotland, do you think these targets are achievable?
I think there is a lot of hope put on Carbon Capture and Storage, it is like a technology that sucks out carbon dioxide in coal plants so implicitly this CCS technology is incorporated in many scenario studies that underlie governmental policies so if this technology is developed then yes it is going to work out. But it is unexplored and a lot of investment is being cut in this area so it does not seem very hopeful.

What are your thoughts on the use of alternative fuels such as biofuels?
Biofuels are quite controversial because they have implications for land where you have to grow the product. Taking land to grow crops has implications on land for food.

How much of a role would you say the public plays in helping reduce emissions?
Not so much, scientists mostly who try to push policies based on science rather than the public. The public often does not know what is happening and also because many academic papers are not available to the public, they are not open access, not everyone knows what is happening.

If you could change one thing about how we as a society have responded over the last ten years, what would it be?
I think I would push for open access so that people can access information, there is quite a scandal going on right now. It is about the publishing houses who make lots of profit out of publishing academic research like on subscription to the university libraries but at the same time they do not provide much additional value on what they charge, so now there is a huge petition against those publishers, especially Elsevier and a few others. [see boycott site here.]

What are the consequences of failure to act?
Well climate change obviously; it could be runaway climate change when it becomes out of control I mean there are quite a few projections now about the 2®C that could probably increase up to 4®C by 2050, and if you heard about the 2®C target which is widely accepted everywhere it already seems outdated if you look at those projections. [See Four Degrees conference]


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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