Industry must make big cuts in emissions

17th January 2012


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Industry must cut emissions by up to 70% against 2009 levels if the UK is to meet its 2050 carbon-reduction targets, according to the government's first carbon plan.

Although the UK is on course to surpass its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 against 1990 levels, energy efficiency will have to increase dramatically across all sectors, including industry, if the country is to meet the goal of an 80% cut by 2050, says the 220-page document produced by DECC.

It suggests that industrial emissions reductions will come from three sources: further efficiencies in the use of energy and materials and the design of industrial processes; replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives such as bioenergy and electrification; and from carbon capture and storage (CCS) to address combustion and process emissions.

Over the next decade, climate change agreements, the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency (CRC) scheme and the EU emissions trading scheme will encourage businesses to reduce their energy use, says the plan. Thereafter the mains cuts will come from more companies shifting to using low-carbon fuels, such as having sustainable biomass to generate heat.

DECC forecasts that, by 2027, emissions from industry will be between 20% and 24% lower than 2009 levels. The plan makes it clear that the government will assist strategically important industrial sectors, such as steel, aluminium and cement, in maintaining competitiveness.

The EEF, the manufacturer’s body, welcomed the commitment to preserving competiveness and the pledge to focus on reducing energy intensity rather than absolute emissions. “The government’s carbon plan is a real step forward,” commented the EEF’s head of climate and environment, Gareth Stace.

The CBI’s head of energy and climate change, Matthew Brown, said: “The plan gives investors a clearer picture of how we will transition to a low-carbon economy. We now need this to be backed by consistent, long-term policies, avoiding any sudden changes of direction which put investors off.”

DECC says that up to 10GW of CCS capacity will be required by the late 2020s, but there is concern about progress in developing the technology in the UK. “There is still a mismatch between government ambitions for CCS. Without funding now there is a risk the UK will lose the race to be a world leader in the development of CCS,” said Stace.

His comments were echoed by the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), which said the plan lacked ambition and could damage the sector’s future by underestimating its potential. “To meet UK emissions targets by 2030, the country needs two to three times more CCS in operation than predicted by the government,” said Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the CCSA.

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