Embodied carbon recognised at last | Brussels Blog

Embodied carbon recognised at last

posted by on 5th Jul 2015

Embodied carbon means…

We must rethink Sir Peter Hall’s eco-town vision

The carbon dioxide emissions due to construction are called “embodied carbon”. It has only recently has it been acknowledged that building homes, offices, factories, shops and roads is very carbon intensive.

In November 2008, I attended a talk by Sir Peter Hall. The slides he showed are on ECO-TOWNS: Will they be Eco-? Can they become Towns? After a short introduction about climate change and the need for more housing, he described eco-towns in England and a few in Europe. He gave a positive impression of all of them and how they were reducing carbon emissions.
Most of the English examples were proposed eco-towns that had not been built at the time – and they probably never will be. However, the first one he showed had been built. It was the Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) for which he noted:
BEDZED: UK’s largest eco-village• Opened March 2002

• BioRegional/ Peabody Trust/Bill Dunster Associates
• 100 homes, community facilities and workspace for 100 people
• Heating requirements: ca 10% typical home
• 60% recycling aim
• Target fossil fuel car miles: 50% national average
• Hackbridge Station 5 mins
• Car Club
• Local facilities: football pitch, club house….

Carbon emissions from construction

What Sir Peter didn’t know was that BEDZED created large carbon dioxide emissions due to its construction. These emissions are called “embodied carbon”. I can confirm he didn’t know because when I told him and didn’t believe me until a subsequent email exchange. The correspondence is described in the Appendices.
Sir Peter’s reply acknowledged two points:

–The embodied carbon in BEDZED is 67.5 tonnes of CO2 of CO2 for a three bedroomed flat.
— Government aims to cut the carbon emissions per person to 2 tonnes CO2e per year by 2050.

I estimate that the embodied carbon in the infrastructure required for a new resident in a “city of BEDZEDs” is of the order of 100 tonnes CO2e: Building homes, offices, factories, shops and roads is carbon intensive.

continue reading…

Lorries and A-boards and York Council

posted by on 29th Jun 2015

In 2008, the council threatened businesses who did not remove A-boards with a £2,500 fine over fears they would block pavements and cause accidents, but relented the following year, telling traders no action was likely if boards were propped against buildings.

York Press 6th March 2013

Here’s an A-board that I have moved onto the pavement.

Why did I do this?

Because I have seen several people fall over at this spot. I went to invesigate and found this

That’s why the people were falling over. One tripped as I was investigating.

It’s the heavy lorries that do it. We need more A-boards to keep them off the pavement.

Four legal questions:

1) What’s my legal position in moving an A-board for public safety.

2) What would York Council’s legal position be if they insist on it being moved and put the public at risk.

3) Who would prosecute?

4) Any action against the lorries?

P.S. The A-board is being read more often.

World Wide Carbon Fee and Dividend

posted by on 11th Jun 2015

Worldwide personal carbon budget: 33 tonnes CO2e
(or if we risk 2˚C it’s 151 tonnes)

Carbon Brief reports the remaining carbon budget to give a 66% chance of keeping global warming below 1.5˚C as 243 billion tonnes. That means, if humanity emits 243 billion tonnes more of CO2e global temperature will rise to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial. Using the same calculations, the remaining carbon budget to keep below 2˚C is 843 billion tonnes.

However, we know the climate models that the IPCC used to calculate these remaining budgets (the CMIP5 models) have missing feedbacks and their estimates of temperature rise were underestimates. This means the carbon budgets for given temperature rises are too generous and should be taken as upper limits.

World population was estimated recently at 7,317,801,293 by Worldometers. Dividing Carbon Brief’s remaining carbon budgets by the world’s population sets the remaining worldwide personal carbon budget at a maximum of 33 tonnes CO2e for a 1.5˚C rise or 115 tonnes for a 2˚C rise.

The UK Government aims at a peak temperature 2°C?

But is 2°C safe? Not according to James Hansen. A few days ago, on Australia’s RN breakfast, he said:

continue reading…

Cycling holiday homes (2010)

posted by on 5th Jun 2015

I wrote this note in 2010.
It is being posted here so I don’t lose it.

Cycling holiday homes

Cycling holiday homes is initially aimed at exploiting a niche market – people that enjoy recreational cycling, the countryside and may have an interest in heritage.


The York area is a good location because it has good cycle routes that are part of the national network passing through pleasant areas which are connected to many areas of interest. Places of interest near York on the White Rose Cycle Route, routes 65 and 66 on the national routes, include Benningborough Hall, York Racecourse, the National Rail Museum, York Minster and many other places of historic interest in York City centre itself. York has been designated as a Cycling City from 2008 – 2011 with £3.68m of government funding. Cycling City York ran the second York Festival of Cycling at Rowntree Park recently.

continue reading…

Carbon capture and storage (2007)

posted by on 2nd Jun 2015

I met John Hutton, Secretary of State for Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform at the launch of the “London Accord”, in the Mansion House.  I tackled him about the cancellation of the Carbon Capture and Storage that BP were going to pilot at Peterhead.  In 2003, I had been part of a Citizens’ Panel on CCS organised by the Tyndal Centre. Phil Willis MP was the chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

21st December 2007

To John Hutton MP

Dear Secretary of State,

continue reading…


posted by on 13th May 2015

This post was the contents of NoBottles.org.uk (now retired)

Plastic better than recycling glass

6th August, 2009

Recycling bottles – breaking them up, melting them down and making new bottles – does not benefit to the environment much. We start with these questions:

1. How does this footprint of a bottle made from recycled material compare with the footprint of a bottle made from virgin material?

2. How does the recycled bottle footprint compare with other forms of packaging?

Some information on the carbon footprint of bottles can be found at wineenabler . They say

In the U.S., recycled glass accounts for about 25% of all glass on the market. Also, using recycled glass reduces the carbon footprint of the resulting bottle by about 25%.

They also say

you can manufacture and dispose of about 2.7 plastic wine bottles for the same carbon footprint that you could manufacture and recycle 1 glass bottle.

continue reading…


posted by on 9th May 2015

This post was the contents of NoPlanes.org.uk (now retired)

DEFRA win a prize

3rd January, 2011

Air travel 1: The frequently asked questions on the UK Government Act on CO2 Carbon Calculator says air travel now accounts for 6.3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions1.

Trying the calculator for a return flight from Leeds UK to Brisbane Australia gives a carbon footprint of 2.9 tonnes of CO2. The Green Ration Book gives 6.8 tonnes. The difference is largely that the Government calculator ignores the radiative forcing index, which accounts for the extra climate effects of air travel over the CO2 emissions alone.

The Government calculator explains the radiative forcing index in the notes1 but quietly ignores it. It says this “could mean that aviation’s climate change impact is almost double that of its CO2 emissions alone”.

Air travel 2: Hansard (2 May 2007) records that emissions from flights departing the UK contributed approximately 13 per cent. of total UK emissions in 2005 when the radiative forcing index is used2:

The prize:

At the 2008 GREEN AWARDS, DEFRA won the Best Green Audiovisual Category (Over £50K) for its ACT ON CO2, Save Money, Save Energy Campaign.

1 Air travel now accounts for 6.3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions and the full climate impact of aviation goes beyond the effects of CO2. Apart from emitting CO2, aircraft contribute to climate change through the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx). This forms the greenhouse gas ozone, especially so when emitted at cruise altitudes. Aircraft also trigger the formation of condensation trails, or contrails, and are suspected of enhancing the formation of cirrus clouds, both of which add to the overall global climate change warming effect. These extra impacts are examples of effects which are collectively known as “radiative forcing”. Recent scientific studies have shown that including the climatic impacts of non-CO2 emissions from planes could mean that aviation’s climate change impact is almost double that of its CO2 emissions alone.

2Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the most recent estimate is of the percentage contribution of aviation, based on emissions by all aircraft departing from UK airports, and including the radiative forcing effect, to UK climate change emissions. [134036]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 26 April 2007]: International aviation is not included in the UK’s climate change inventory as there is no internationally agreed method for allocating such emissions among states. In 2005 aviation represented 6.3 per cent. of UK emissions, calculated as a proportion of emissions in the UK inventory plus emissions from international aviation and shipping departing the UK. Detailed data may be viewed at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/index.htm.

As the “Future of Air Transport Progress Report” (December 2006) noted, aviation emissions arising from the combustion of kerosene include carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, particulates and other compounds. These give rise to “radiative forcing” impacts. The total radiative impacts were estimated by the EC TRADEOFF project to be approximately twice those of carbon dioxide (excluding cirrus cloud formation).

Using a radiative forcing multiplier of two, emissions from flights departing the UK contributed approximately 13 per cent. of total UK emissions in 2005. However, the figures for non-aviation sources do not include any radiative forcing attributable to them, as conclusive figures are not available.

The link to the DEFRA website doesn’t work.

Suspension suspended – planes still bad

23rd August, 2010

continue reading…


posted by on 28th Apr 2015

This post was the contents of NoBeef.org.uk (now retired)

Murder on the Environment

18th August, 200

New Scientist: 18 July 2007

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption.

Steak’s big carbon footprint

18th August, 2009

Adelaide Now: November 18, 2007 01:15am

EATING one less steak a week is better for the environment than leaving the car in the garage, a new report reveals.
The Meat’s Carbon Hoofprint report, compiled by Adelaide experts, compared the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle and vehicles, and found beef was almost four times as damaging to the atmosphere.

The report’s authors, Adelaide University climate change chair Professor Barry Brook and Animal Liberation committee member Geoff Russell, used the example of a family of four eating 4kg of beef a week and driving a two-tonne Ford Territory 200km each week.

Beef’s footprint 14 times its own weight

26th August, 2009

continue reading…


posted by on 27th Apr 2015

This post was the contents of NoGas.org.uk (now retired)

No gas heating

13th October, 2009

In a speech to the Overseas Development Institute in June,  Lord Turner, chair of the Climate Change Committe, said:

…we can pretty much totally decarbonise our electricity generation. UK electricity generation currently puts out approx 550gm of CO2 per KW hour … we believe it’s possible to get to a low of 100g/KW hour by 2030. And 10-20g/ KW hour by 2050.

That’s important not only to take the CO2 out of electricity generation, but once we’ve done that it’s likely we can apply electricity to a wider set of economic activities- largely electrfying the light end of the service transport – cars- and putting electric heating back into our houses, having spent the last 30 years taking it out.

That means removing your gas central heating … and your gas cooker.

Listen to Lord Turner’s speech to the Overseas Development Institute on 03 June 2009 here:  ODI Public Lecture: “UK leading the way: Moving forward in international climate change policy”


posted by on 27th Apr 2015

This post was the contents of NoCars.org.uk (now retired)

A waste of space

21st September, 2009

Climate change is the most urgent reason for drastically reducing motoring but there are many others. Top of the list is the space they waste. Here’s a blast from 1973:

The problem is that of designing an environment for people, who occupy a few square feet and need tens of square feet to move, which can also accommodate a large number of motor cars, which occupy hundreds of square feet and need thousands of square feet to move. This has consequences for housing design and for urban form. There are also other characteristics of motor cars which damage the local environment so that a large number of them in an urban setting has the effect of encouraging people to spread out spatially in trying to avoid the nuisances of heavy traffic.

Put simply, the choice is between compact no-car Venice and sprawling all-car Los Angeles.

Which do you choose?


Comment by James, January 5th, 2011

Thats easy, I choose Venice

 Comment by Luke, May 23rd, 2011

im more of an LA man myself

Comment by Geoff, March 14th, 2013

Excellent video on Car Free Venice: