AVIATION & CARBON EMISSIONS

This article looks into aviation and carbon emissions. It follows on the back of last week’s article, which looked into carbon offsetting. The aviation industry is expected to be a major purchaser of carbon offsets so these two issues are closely interlinked.

Jp Valery

The selection of this theme is influenced by my personal life, as I am travelling to India soon, where I will be flying from London to Mumbai.

Looking into the carbon emissions associated with this outbound flight, for 1 economy seat, where the impact of radiative forcing is accounted for, this comes to 1.08 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (greenhouse gasses).

Where the impact of radiative forcing is not taken into account, this only reports a figure of 0.57 tonnes of greenhouse gasses. This is obviously dangerously misleading and why it is so important to account for radiative forcing when reporting on greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.

The UK department for the environment defines radiative forcing as the influence of non-co2 climate change effects of aviation. This includes elements such as water vapour, contrails and NOX emissions.

I think it is important to put the impact of the emissions from that 1 flight in some context. The average carbon emissions per head of population in the UK comes to 9.1 tonnes per annum.

So just that 1 flight alone, would be responsible for 11.8% of a person’s carbon footprint. Which for something which lasts only a few hours is a sign of just how energy and carbon intensive this activity is.

This is why technological innovation that lowers the carbon emissions associated with flying is so important.

You are not going to connect London to Mumbai via high speed rail or passenger ship. The only realistic option is to fly. This makes sustainable aviation essential.

What you need to know

This article looked into carbon emissions and aviation.

We looked into the carbon emissions associated with 1 flight from London to Mumbai and the problems associated with not accounting for the impact of radiative forcing.

I don’t believe that aviation has committed some kind of original sin and I believe that technological breakthroughs will make a sustainable and connected future possible.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions from the aviation sector?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

P.S.

Please stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I am planning on publishing lots of interesting content from my travels in India and Sri Lanka.

CARBON OFFSETS & SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into carbon offsets and sustainability. Do these various initiatives offer a pathway for high-carbon industries to rapidly decarbonise? Or are they misleading customers and corporate stakeholders as to the true sustainability of a business?

Ian Livesey

There is no doubt that this was all kicked into the mainstream with Easy Jet’s promise to become the world’s first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights across its entire network, announcing that it would offset all jet fuel emissions through a variety of carbon offsetting mechanisms.

This all sounds wonderful, but if everything was as easy as paying others to reduce carbon emissions, so that high carbon industries could continue to emit high volumes of emissions and reduce their contribution towards climate change at a slower rate, then why was this not thought of earlier? The reason, is that what is sold as a bonified solution that stimulates progress is a murky world where emissions may be falling, staying the same or in some cases increasing.

Kevin Anderson, who I have written about before as he is a major authority on climate change was quick to step in with his perspective that carbon offsets do not work as they are portrayed. You can find images of his Twitter thread below.

Kevin Anderson Tweet 1

Kevin Anderson Tweet 2

Kevin makes two really good points in his Tweet. One is that the science and mechanics around carbon offsets is far from settled. The other is around total emissions, rather than efficiency. If you buy planes or other machinery that is marginally more efficient, but you buy more of them and use them more, the carbon reduction gains from improved efficiency will be cancelled out by the increased volume of carbon emitting activity.

In his Tweet, Kevin shares a link to his 2012 article in Nature The Inconvenient truth of carbon offsets. I will pick out what I consider to be the best bits from this article.

Kevin shares the following opinion:

“Offsetting is worse than doing nothing. It is without scientific legitimacy, is dangerously misleading and almost certainly contributes to a net increase in the absolute rate of global emissions growth.”

He goes on to explain that:

The science underpinning climate change makes clear that the temperature rise by around the end of this century will relate to the total emissions of long-lived greenhouse gasses between 2000 and 2100.

Kevin then moves on to make what I consider his most valuable argument:

The promise of offsetting triggers a rebound away from meaningful mitigation and towards the development of further high-carbon infrastructures… If offsetting is deemed to have equivalence with mitigation, the incentive to move to lower-carbon technologies, behaviours and practices is reduced accordingly.”

Overall, from Kevin’s analysis, it is hard to take anything positive about carbon offsetting.

Then towards the end of the week, I saw another article on carbon offsetting doing the rounds that really caught my eye. It came from the most unsuspecting of sources, CNN.

CNN article

I was really impressed with quality of this article and for taking on the challenge of explaining to the public that there are no easy solutions. Carbon offsetting is not a panacea for high-carbon, energy-intensive industries to become sustainability leaders overnight.

The only thing that I would improve about the CNN article, is that it is important to include the impact of radiative forcing when talking about the impact of carbon emissions from the aviation sector. Failure to do this portrays an unrealistically low carbon impact from this sector.

But I have to say that it is positive to see a major news outlet such as CNN take on a challenging subject such as carbon offsetting and explain to their readers that this does not offer a magic bullet to addressing climate change.

What you need to know

This article looked into carbon offsets and sustainability.

We looked into the Easy Jet carbon offset guarantee that was recently announced.

We looked into the rebuttal by Kevin Anderson and his 2012 article in Nature.

We also looked into a surprisingly good article in CNN by Julia Buckley which exposes the limitations of carbon offsets.

The key takeaway should be that the whole process of carbon offsetting is fraught with limitations. Some sides of the argument would say that it is an overall negative activity as it distracts from reducing emissions and facilitates increased investments in high-carbon industries. There are those who say it is either a harmless activity or something which is an overall positive in helping to lower emissions in high-carbon industries until such a time that technology allows them to be responsible for fewer emissions.

On this argument I am likely to side with Kevin Anderson as he is a major authority on climate science. If they are even slightly less effective than they are promoted as being and if they distract even remotely from mitigation activities and increase emissions in the short run, then they are a negative force. The onus is on the providers of the offsets and the companies wishing to be declared as carbon neutral to prove that they are leading to overall carbon emissions reductions.

As with most things in life, things that seem simple very often turn out to be a great deal more complicated than originally thought.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about the effectiveness of carbon offsets?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

FORESTRY ≠ DEFORESTATION

This article looks into forestry and deforestation. These are often confused as being the same thing, when in fact they are very different.

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This article is based on the work of Patrick Moore and his excellent book Green Spirit: trees are the answer, which I read recently. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I respect his opinions as he backs them up with evidence. But on forestry, he is a major authority in this field, with significant experience.

In his book, Patrick explains the following:

It is not surprising that many people associate deforestation and destruction of forests with logging. After all, the first stage of deforestation is the removal of trees. But deforestation is a two-stage process and the second stage is by far the most critical in determining the fate of the forest. The second stage involves human activity directed at making sure the forest is not allowed to grow back after it has been cut.”

Patrick brings thing closer to home, with the following helpful explanation:

We tend to think of deforestation as something that happens in other countries when in truth most of us live in and are surrounded by areas where forests once thrived, but are now occupied by cities and farms.

Patrick goes on to explain that:

It is important to remember that the initial clearing of land is not sufficient in itself to cause deforestation. Left alone, land that was forested will eventually return to forest after it is cut down. It is only by determined and continuous effort that our farms, cities, and industrial areas are prevented from returning to a forest similar to the one that was removed.”

What you need to know

This article looked into forestry and deforestation.

What should be clear from everything that we have looked at, is that forestry and deforestation are not the same thing.

The deforestation occurs when the land that was once forested is converted to another permanent use.

An ideal situation is for seeds to be planted in the area where logging has taken place. But even if nothing is done, trees will once again emerge and grow to maturity.

Deforestation has far more in common with agriculture, urbanisation and primary industries such as mining and quarrying than it does with forestry. If managed sustainably, a forest can supply timber in perpetuity.

To be sure, there is some forestry that leads to deforestation. But instead of widespread and incorrect linkages between forestry and deforestation, we should be encouraging the increased use of wood and be planting more trees as it is the world’s most abundant renewable resource.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to promote sustainable forestry?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS

This article looks into some of the key areas that need to be considered in order to make a building as sustainable as possible.

Sawyer Bengtson

It is once again based on the analysis of Simon Sturgis and his excellent book Targeting Zero.

If you look at the chart below from ourworldindata.org sustainable buildings have the potential to influence carbon emissions in the residential buildings segment, the manufacturing industries & construction segment and the electricity & heat production segment. It is not unusual for buildings to be connected to 40% of a countries carbon emissions. Therefore, a strategy that focusses on buildings that are low carbon in their construction and operational phases is likely to prove to be a successful one to tackle carbon emissions at a global scale.

carbon-dioxide-co2-emissions-by-sector-or-source

There are a number of design choices which will affect how sustainable a building is, we will go through each of these in turn.

Existing resources

Simon explains that you should:

Establish which materials, structure and fabric already on site are suitable for reuse within the project.”

Simon goes on to explain that:

Part of the conceptual approach is to consider what the next architect/ engineer would do with your building when it comes to future refurbishment. Can your building be dismantled and recycled in its entirety? Can the components be reused at the same level, i.e. not just at a lower use level? The ideal is for nothing to be wasted, and everything to be reusable.”

This is a level of thinking that needs to become commonplace as soon as possible.

Environmental strategy

Simon begins with the following excellent explanation:

The relationship between operational and embodied emissions and their collective mitigation is key to a low carbon building.”

Simon then explains what services should be omitted to improve the sustainability of the building:

Omitting mechanical systems omits a large part of a building’s regulated operational energy use, and the embodied costs of the plant.

Primary structure

Simon begins by highlighting that:

The key to a low carbon structural system is to select the optimal system not just for the immediate requirement, and for the desired life expectancy, but also for future flexibility.”

Simon then expands on that with the following statement:

Some solutions such as steel or timber can be designed for easy dismantling and reuse. Concrete, using cement replacements, recycled content in steel, and recycled aggregate can be relatively carbon-efficient, particularly if durability and long life are required.

External walls and cladding

Simon explains the key parameters for this area:

These are the initial embodied carbon costs construction, the lifetime carbon costs through maintenance and disposal, the potential for deconstruction and reuse, and the lifetime operational performance costs consequent on the design. The relationship between these parameters depends on required life expectancy and desired lifetime performance. Inappropriate choices can have significant unnecessary carbon costs.”

Interiors

Simon begins by explaining how interiors can become a carbon hotspot over time:

While the initial carbon cost of fitout may be comparatively small in relation to structure or cladding, the aggregate carbon cost can exceed these large initial capital cost items over the life of a building.”

Simon then explains what should be done about this:

From the outset, interiors decisions need to be strategic from a future maintenance perspective as much as aesthetic and cost driven. Natural finishes such as brick, which do not need a finishing layer or regular maintenance, fit a low carbon strategy on both counts.”

What you need to know

This article looked into the key considerations that need to be addressed in order to design and build a sustainable building.

They each need to be addressed in their own way to ensure that emissions reductions in one area or not replaced by emissions increases in another area.

What should be clear is that globally, buildings are a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This will require significant change in order to make this sector less carbon intensive.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be addressed to create a low carbon building?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WHOLE LIFE CARBON THROUGH THE RIBA STAGES

This article looks into whole life carbon through the RIBA stages. It is based on the excellent book Targeting Zero by Simon Sturgis. It is not just one of the best books that I have read on sustainable buildings, but is potentially one of the most important books on sustainability that I have come across, given the large percentage of carbon emissions associated with buildings.

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Whole life carbon is an analysis based on the sum of the embodied and operational carbon emissions.

Embodied carbon emissions relate to the sourcing of raw materials, their transportation and fabrication into building components which are then delivered to site and  assembled.

Operational carbon emissions are the emissions of carbon dioxide during the operational or in-use phase of a building.

The thinking is that by considering these two aspects simultaneously as part of a whole life carbon analysis, you optimise trade-offs between the two, to maximise carbon emissions reductions. Looking at them in isolation can lead to decisions which may actually increase carbon emissions.

The RIBA Plan of Work is a document that outlines all stages in the planning, design and building process, from conception to completion on site.

This article will go through each of these stages in turn and look at Simon Sturgis’s analysis of how whole life carbon can be considered at each turn.

RIBA Stage 0 – Strategic Definition

Simon provides a number of reasons why a client would be interested in whole life carbon analysis.

  • Producing a specifically low carbon building
  • Pre-empting changes in standards and legislation to future proof the asset
  • Marketing advantages
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Circular economic considerations
  • Added value
  • Resource efficiency
  • A desire to mitigate climate change impacts

RIBA Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief

At this stage, a whole life carbon assessment would require a life cycle assessment. This encourages long term thinking about the building’s fabric and functional performance past practical completion.

RIBA Stage 2 – Concept Design

To be successful, whole life carbon thinking should be embedded within the design process from the outset.

The following life cycle considerations should be taken into account at this stage:

  • Climate change
  • Future building flexibility
  • Intended life and durability
  • Materiality
  • Deconstruction
  • Disposal

RIBA Stage 3 – Developed Design

The carbon intensity of the various structural and envelope options should be taken into consideration. Carbon budgets can be created using cost data available at this stage. This can be used as a baseline which improvements can be judged against.

RIBA Stage 4 – Technical Design

At this stage, building on the work done in the previous stages, low carbon choices are now integrated into the detailed drawings and documentation. It is important that the contractors selected are clear about the low carbon aims and aspirations of the project and are able to deliver on these during the construction phase.

RIBA Stage 5 – Construction

A key issue here is monitoring the actual carbon impacts of the project and how they relate to the carbon budget.

Reporting would be required at intervals of 3 to 6 months to ensure that contractors stay on top of the data and the project stays on track and within the carbon budget.

RIBA Stage 6 – Handover and Close Out

At this stage a final carbon review of the as built information would be undertaken to create an assessment of the whole life carbon impacts of the project.

There is an opportunity to learn lessons from any variations between the design stage carbon budget and the as built records.

RIBA Stage 7 – In Use

At this stage a post occupancy evaluation should be done to take account of the whole life carbon impacts.

How a building evolves over its life is very much down to decisions made at the design stages.

What you need to know

This article looked into whole life carbon through the RIBA stages. It was based on the excellent work of Simon Sturgis and I encourage all my readers to buy and read a copy of his book Targeting Zero.

What I hoped to show in this article is that there are opportunities to reduce whole life carbon throughout the RIBA stages. It begins with a client who is interested in the subject matter and willing to expend resources to investigate low carbon opportunities.

All of the gateways flow into one another and it is important that a decision is taken at the beginning to prioritise whole life carbon impacts.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to better promote understanding of the whole life carbon impact of buildings?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

NET ZERO 2050 IS DEAD, NET ZERO 2030 KILLED IT

This article looks into net zero 2050 pledges and asks the following; are these dead and have they been killed by net zero 2030 pledges?

yes

With the recent climate strike protests and the upcoming Climate Week series of events which run alongside the UN General Assembly, this is certainly a moment when climate change is receiving more attention than ever.

As the chart below makes clear, we are at a moment in time when a number of different emissions pathways lie ahead. Some of these are disastrous and some of these are more hopeful.

economist image

The way emissions pathways work means that actions taken right now make a big difference. The further into the century you get without reducing emissions, the faster you then have to cut them.

This brings me to the substantive point of my article, which is around the 2050 net zero pledges that have begun to abound. Can these pledges really be considered the gold standard when a new type of pledge has begun to arise? There have been a series of pledges by organisations committing achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. This is twenty years earlier than the IPCC recommends. We will look into a few examples in this article.

Before we get into the detail of which organisations have made specific 2030 pledges, it is important to define what net zero emissions actually means. For this I will turn to the always excellent Grantham Institute, who have produced the following quotation

“‘Net zero’ refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere. Like a bath with the taps on, an approach to achieving this balance can either be to turn down the taps (the emissions) or to drain an equal amount down the plug (removals of emissions from the atmosphere, including storage for the emissions such as ‘carbon sinks’).”

As we can see, organisations aiming for net zero emissions targets can achieve this through a balance of reducing emission and storage of emissions. This should make it possible for any business regardless of their business model to achieve this at some point. The time frame would depend on how ambitious they are.

The University of Leeds

As a former student, I was excited to see the University of Leeds come out with a series of ambitious sustainability principles this week. The first principle is around their climate commitments and I will post that in full below:

We shall prepare our next Climate Plan and sustainability strategy with a view to securing a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 (twenty years earlier than the IPCC recommends). Furthermore, although we cannot yet guarantee to achieve it, it is our aim as an institution to have no direct carbon emissions by 2050.”

This is a really ambitious 2 stage target. The most eye catching of which is the 2030 net zero carbon footprint ambition. Although at a later date, the 2050 aim to have no direct emissions is also ambitious.

Great Portland Estates

Great Portland Estates are another organisation that recently announced ambitious 2030 net zero targets. You can find these below:

  • For all new build developments completed from 2030 to be net zero carbon

  • To set out our approach and timescale to become a net zero carbon business.

These are ambitious targets that will take a lot of work to achieve.

JLL

JLL also recently announced a 2030 net zero commitment, theirs is as follows:

“By 2030, only occupy workplaces which are net zero carbon in operation. Measure upfront embodied carbon in JLL’s own workplace fitouts, with a view to halving the impact by 2030.”

This is a similarly challenging commitment, that will require a lot of work to achieve.

OVO Energy

Another business that has announced a raft of ambitious 2030 commitments is OVO energy. Their plan consists of 6 commitments, but I will post their net zero 2030 commitment below:

Achieve net zero carbon operations underpinned by science-based targets set for emissions associated with powering and heating our buildings and our fleet and offsets for the remainder.”

This is another challenging target. It does have quite a specific scope, but it should lead to real and meaningful change.

What you need to know

This article looked into net zero 2050 commitments in the light of a raft of recent 2030 net zero commitments. It is clear that the new gold standard in climate leadership is a net zero 2030 commitment. This is partially because of its date 20 years before that recommended by the IPCC, but is also because this level of ambition is necessary. The best time to start reducing emissions is right now.

From all of the examples that we looked at one thing is clear. These are ambitious targets that may very well not be achieved. But the reason you set a target, should not be because it is so easy that you will definitely achieve it. You should set a target because it is ambitious and it will inspire your employees and stakeholders to make the previously impossible possible.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about net zero 2030 targets?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

INTEGRATIVE DESIGN & SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRY

This article looks into integrative design and how it can be used to make industry more sustainable.

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The last 3 weeks we have looked into integrative design as the leading idea within energy efficiency and how it applies to buildings and mobility. You can find links to all of these articles below.

THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEA IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY

INTEGRATIVE DESIGN & SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS

INTEGRATIVE DESIGN & SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

This week looks into how integrative design can be applied to industry. It is based on the Amory Lovins 2018 paper How big is the energy efficiency resource?

If anyone was in any doubt as to how important it is to make industry more sustainable, Amory’s opening statement would leave you in no doubt:

“Upwards of half, perhaps three-fifths, of the world’s electricity runs motors, chiefly in industry.”

Amory also makes it clear that standard off the shelf sustainable solutions offer far less potential than integrative design can offer:

“The two standard improvements—more-efficient motors and adjustable-speed drives—save 2× less electricity at 5× higher unit cost than a whole-drivesystem retrofit, because 28 of its 35 improvements are free byproducts of the first seven.”

Amory explains that:

Even bigger improvements are available in the most common systems that motors drive, and should be done first to make their motor systems smaller, hence cheaper.

Based upon the fact that half the world’s drivepower runs pumps and fans, Amory points towards evidence which shows the following:

Making their pipes and ducts fat, short, and straight rather than thin, long, and crooked can save 8090+ % of their friction, and typically pay back in less than a year in retrofits and less than zero in newbuilds.

Amory also points towards eye watering inefficiencies in the power sector:

Compounding losses—in power plant, wires, inverter, motor, pump, piping—lose 90% of the power plant’s fuel energy. But reversing those compounding losses into compounding savings, from downstream to upstream, enables one unit of friction or flow saved in the pipe to leverage 10 units of saved fuel, cost, and emissions at the power plant. Thus full global optimization of pipe and duct systems could in principle save, with enticing profits, enough pump and fan energy to displace roughly a fifth of the world’s electricity or half its coal-fired electricity. Probably no official climate assessment includes this major opportunity.”

It should be clear that there is a lot more work to do to communicate the benefits of integrative design so that these opportunities can be seized upon.

Amory points to the similarities between integrative design when applied to vehicles and industry:

Applying integrative design across sectors reveals common themes. The 10× downstream-to-upstream amplification of energy saved in pipe/pump systems is analogous to the 57× amplification of reduced tractive load back to fuel savings in autos.

What you need to know

This article looked into integrative design and how it can be used to make industry more sustainable.

One thing that this entire series on integrative design should have made clear, is that there is an enormous well of untapped potential energy efficiency savings. They are left untapped, because people focus on parts of the system, but not how the system as a whole functions. Integrative design can address this.

We looked at how massive amounts of the world’s electricity is used to power motors.

We also looked at how merely optimising pipework to reduce friction can make a significant difference in saving electricity, which has cascading benefits both upstream and downstream.

Overall, integrative design could be the missing link that is needed to make industry more sustainable. But it is held back by being a design method and not a technology in itself.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make industry more sustainable?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby