Reframing climate change: from long-term targets to stringent and inclusive carbon budgets
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Unit of AssessmentCivil and Construction Engineering
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Economics: Applied Economics, Econometrics
Summary of the impact
The UK's Climate Change Bill (2008) proposed a reduction in carbon
dioxide emissions of 60% by 2050. Tyndall-Manchester's research concluded
this target was inconsistent with the government's repeated commitment to
a temperature rise of no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
It demonstrated a minimum 80% reduction was necessary;
scientifically-robust policies must be based on `cumulative emissions'
(carbon budgets); and that targets should include emissions from aviation
and shipping. All three recommendations are now explicitly enshrined in
primary legislation, with the responsible Secretary of State acknowledging
the "signal contribution" of Tyndall-Manchester's research to the
2008 Climate Change Act.
Key researchers: Kevin Anderson (Tyndall-Manchester director '02 - present,
Tyndall director '08 - 10); Alice Bows (research associate '03 -`08,
lecturer '08, senior lecturer '11, reader `13); Sarah Mander
(research associate '03 -`08, research fellow '08 - `10 on this topic);
Carly McLachlan (PhD researcher '05 -'09, lecturer `10); Clair Gough
(Tyndall research fellow '00 - present); Simon Shackley (lecturer, '01 - `06).
Tyndall Manchester's Decarbonising the UK research programme
(2001-2006) developed energy scenarios for meeting the government's carbon
reduction target. The scenarios integrated perspectives from engineering
and economics along with those from the social and environmental sciences
to provide the UK's first assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from all
energy-related sources . This was an international first; the method
developed by Tyndall-Manchester subsequently being used to assess China's
national emissions and develop scenarios of their potential emission
futures. The research also made a seminal contribution to
understanding the role and importance of emissions from international
transport (aviation and shipping) and how their exclusion from the
reporting requirements of the Kyoto protocol undermined the validity of
national emissions inventories and reduction targets .
This early body of research  subsequently underpinned a wealth of
rigorous, interdisciplinary, whole-system analysis of energy and emissions
at both UK and global levels (2006-2011). Focussing specifically on the
transition from long-term reductions targets to scientifically robust
cumulative emissions and carbon budgets, this was the first detailed
analysis derived for the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change.
The work was developed to provide clear global-scale analysis, with
important papers published in Royal Society journals [1, 2], Nature
 and Energy Policy .
References to the research
Three Key References
1. Anderson, K., and Bows, A., (2011). "Beyond dangerous climate change:
emission pathways for a new world". Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society A, 369, pp. 20-44, doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0290.
This pivotal paper was the first to disaggregate comprehensive global
carbon budgets to the level of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 nations, and
provided the basis for the 4°C and beyond Oxford-Tyndall
conference in Autumn 2009 (www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/programme.php).
131 citations in Google Scholar.
2. Anderson, K. and A. Bows (2008). "Reframing the climate change
challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends." Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society A, 366: pp.3863-3882, doi: 10.1098/rsta.2008.0138.
This has become a seminal paper, receiving over 274 citations to date
(Google Scholar) and significantly reframing much of academic and,
increasingly, policy debate on the scale of the mitigation challenge.
3. Anderson, K., Bows, A., and Mander, S., (2008), "From long-term
targets to cumulative emission pathways; reframing the climate policy
debate", Energy Policy 36, pp. 3714-3722. doi:
Based on comprehensive analysis of emissions accounting and the
importance of including aviation in national inventories, this influential
paper became central to the development of the UK's Climate Change Act
2008, and in particular the inclusion of cumulative emissions and carbon
budgets. The highly topical journal, Energy Policy (the international
journal of the political, economic, planning, environmental and social
aspects of energy). The article has been cited 49 times in Google Scholar.
Three supplementary references
The report was the first academic research to quantify comprehensive UK
energy and emission scenarios (including international aviation and
shipping), launched at a high-level event at Westminster with a keynote by
David King (then government chief scientist). Cited 41 times in Google
Scholar, copies still frequently requested at events where Tyndall
5. Anderson, A. and Bows, B. (2012). "Executing a Scharnow turn:
reconciling shipping emissions with international commitments on climate
change". Carbon Management 3(6), pp. 615-628, doi: 10.4155/cmt.12.63.
This agenda-setting paper was the first to apply the carbon budget
framing of climate change to a single sector; in this case international
shipping. The paper provided and academic grounding for a special issue on
shipping by this relatively new journal, which is rapidly gaining status.
Important and timely contribution in this highly prestigious and widely
read journal, highlighting the scale of the emission gap between rhetoric
and reality on mitigation. 11 citations to date in Google Scholar.
Details of the impact
bracketed letters refer to sources to corroborate impacts in section 5.
Climate change predictions of global temperature rise rely on accurate
forecasts of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
Tyndall-Manchester's research is at the forefront of analysis on emissions
targets and carbon budgets, delivering challenging insights to policy
makers. The conclusions from this research have countered orthodox views
of the responses necessary for tackling climate change.
Four headline areas where it has had a tangible impact on policy
1) Cumulative emissions (carbon budgets) as a scientifically robust
basis for policy.
The insights gained from Tyndall-Manchester's comprehensive emission
scenarios attracted considerable political attention, leading to a major
conference in Westminster opened by the then government chief scientist,
Professor David King. As a result, the research was highly influential in
bringing the singular importance of carbon budgets, as opposed to
long-term targets, to the forefront of political debate [A, B].
NATIONAL IMPACT: In 2008 the Climate Change Act established the UK
Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which ultimately advised the government
to introduce carbon budgets for the UK. The Secretary of State (David
Miliband) acknowledged the "signal contribution" of
Tyndall-Manchester's research to the 2008 Climate Change Act [A]; and the
CCC subsequently adjusted their recommendation in line with our research
findings, suggesting an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 would be
necessary to meet UK's international commitments to 2°C (as enshrined in
the Copenhagen Accord). Tyndall-Manchester research also had influence in
the Scottish parliament's formulating its own Climate Change Act.
REGIONAL IMPACT: At the regional level, Tyndall-Manchester was
commissioned by Manchester City Council (MCC) to develop carbon budgets
for the city region, subsequently adopted in the City Council's climate
change action plan, A Certain Future (2008 and 2010).
COMMERCIAL IMPACT: Research was also taken up by a leading British retail
and banking group for use in their discussions with government on the need
both for a UK climate change act and any forthcoming legislation being
premised on scientifically-informed cumulative emission budgets and not
simple 2050 targets [C].
2) The need to increase the UK carbon reduction target.
Initially through interactions with the Welsh Assembly Government
(Anderson appointed as commissioner and scientific advisor to Welsh
Government's climate change commission, 2007-date) and subsequently the UK
Committee on Climate Change, Tyndall-Manchester's work was, as noted by
the Secretary of State [A], to be pivotal in the UK basing it targets on a
cumulative approach. Ultimately this led to a shift from an advisory 60%
reduction target to an 80% target enshrined in primary legislation
Tyndall Manchester influenced this decision through:
i. A report commissioned by Welsh Assembly Government (Towards 2°C:
emissions reduction scenarios for Wales) — Tyndall-Manchester
developed emission scenarios for Wales based on the cumulative budget
analysis undertaken by Anderson and Bows and provided formal written and
oral reports back to the Welsh Climate Change Commission and the Welsh
ii. Evidence presented to Northern Ireland devolved administration (2008)
iii. Contributing to Prime Minister's Office report on carbon trading
3) Inclusion of shipping emissions in UK carbon budgets.
Transport contributes significantly to carbon emissions but was initially
excluded from targets in the UK Climate Change act. Input from
Tyndall-Manchester academics was influential in the UK Committee on
Climate Change's (CCC) advice to government to include international
shipping emissions in the UK carbon budgets [F]. This advice is not
legally-binding, but the 2008 Act does require Government to respond
directly to the advice of the CCC and typically Government develops policy
on the basis of the advice (as it is with aviation and shipping)
4) Emission pathways align more with a 4°C than 2°C level of warming.
Tyndall Manchester research is continuing to have significant impact on
the UK, EU and Global debates on the carbon budgets and emission pathways
commensurate with 2°C. This is ongoing with the impact being on framing
and informing high-level debates; including invited submissions to give
evidence to various parliamentary committees reviewing the UK's carbon
budgets and 2°C commitments. Other examples include:
- Numerous presentations (government, parliamentary, public, business)
- Broad media coverage (e.g. Guardian — climate scientists warn of 4°C
... Nov. 2010) 2008-2011
- Article in Parliamentary Brief (2010)
- Considerable foreign media coverage (e.g. Sydney Morning Herald — July
- Anderson speaking as advisor to the Department for International
Development (DfID) on the prospects of potential emissions and impacts on
DfID's development programme. Most recently, a `morning update' on climate
change at the behest of the director general for policy and global issues
(Michael Anderson) and video linked DfID's Asian offices [H]
- Environmental Audit Committee report on Carbon Budgets, 2010-12 session
In addition to the above policy areas, Tyndall-Manchester work on
comprehensive emissions budgets has been used by the research councils to
inform the context of their future funding programme and calls. This
impact was influenced through an invited keynote address to RCUK workshop
to frame the research councils' forthcoming ~£50M investment in energy
demand research, in which Tyndall-Manchester researchers were asked to
provide the UK and international climate change context and outline
criteria for guiding the future programme and calls.
Whilst all the research included in the submission was academically and
proactively pursued, it often benefitted from close liaison and some
financial support from the Cooperative Group, several NGOs and scientists
at the UK's Committee on Climate Change and the UK's leading climate
modelling group (the Met Office-based Hadley Centre). Furthermore,
Tyndall-Manchester work was influential in guiding the campaigning
objectives of major NGOs — for example through a commissioned review of
the first report of the Committee on Climate Change (2009) [J].
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. Statement of corroboration from former Secretary of State for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
B. Statement of corroboration from former special advisor to Secretary of
State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
C. Statement of corroboration from senior manager at large British retail
and banking group.
D. "MacLochlainn welcomes Environment Committee enquiry into Climate
E. Lazarowicz, M (2009) `Global Carbon Trading, A Framework for Reducing
F. Statement of corroboration from senior member of Committee on Climate
G. Anderson, K., and Bows, A., oral evidence on the UK Climate Change Act
and Committee Report, Environmental Audit Committee, March 2009.
Viewed 32,214 times.
I. House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Carbon Budgets -
Seventh Report of Session 2010-12 Volume II.
J. Statement of corroboration from head of policy, research and science
at leading environmental NGO