The influence of UK emissions reduction targets on the emissions of the global steel industry

Jonathan Norman has published a new paper in Resources, Conservation & Recycling. Read the paper here.


The steel industry is the world’s largest industrial source of CO2 emissions. Recent UK economic policies have led to reduced domestic steel production giving an apparent reduction in national emissions. However, demand for goods made from steel has not reduced. Emissions have thus been transferred not reduced and implementation of UK climate policies may in future expand this ‘carbon leakage.’ This paper explores how future UK demand for goods made from steel might be supplied while satisfying national climate policies, and how this will influence global CO2 emissions. Current flows and stocks of steel are estimated from existing databases. Evidence from other developed economies suggests that per capita stocks are tending towards a saturation level so future demand is forecast from population growth and the expected rate of replacement of a stable stock. The carbon intensities of five different steel-making routes are used to predict the allowed scale of future domestic steel production within the industrial emissions allowances set in four energy pathways defined by the UK Government. The remaining requirement for steel must be sourced offshore and the associated emissions are predicted, to give an estimate of the global emissions arising from final demand in the UK. The results show that current UK climate strategy may have a limited effect in reducing the CO2 emissions of the global steel industry, unless the UK shifts towards producing more of its own steel products with domestic secondary steel-making. This option would also increase the security of UK supply and support an expansion of UK manufacturing.

Energy efficiency potentials: Contrasting thermodynamic, technical and economic limits for organic Rankine cycles within UK industry

Geoff Hammond and Jonathan Norman have published in Applied Energy. Read the article here.


The laws of thermodynamics set a theoretical limit on the energy savings that can be realised in a given application. This thermodynamic potential cannot be reached in practice, and a technical potential for energy savings is defined by the performance of available technology. Only applications of the technology that are considered economic will usually be considered for installation. This economic potential will itself not be fully realised, with the actual savings that are achieved limited by further barriers. A database on surplus heat availability within UK industry was used to estimate the thermodynamic, technical, and economic potentials when converting this surplus heat to electricity using organic Rankine cycles (ORCs). Technical and economic information was based on that reported from existing installations and manufacturers. Installations economic over the target payback period totalled approximately 3.5 PJ/yr of electricity generation, primarily in the steel, chemicals and cement subsectors. However, this result is sensitive to the input parameters, particularly the future price of electricity and required payback period, which are uncertain. Therefore a range of possible scenarios were investigated. The results form a basis for discussion on how to close this “gap” between the identified potentials and the savings realised in practice.

Border carbon adjustments: Addressing emissions embodied in trade

Researchers in Leeds (Marco Sakai and John Barrett) examined the effectiveness of border carbon adjustments (BCAs), which have figured prominently as policy instruments to address competitiveness concerns in countries subject to a carbon price. The authors estimated the volume of emissions that could be potentially taxed by BCAs, and particularly focus on the effects of trade provisions and country and sectoral coverage. Their findings indicate that trade provisions can significantly reduce the scope and effectiveness of BCAs. The principle of best available technology and exclusion of electricity reduce the tariffs considerably. The authors argue that BCAs are not optimal policy tools to address carbon leakage concerns, and consequently alternative options should be sought.

Read the paper here.

National climate policy implications of mitigating embodied energy system emissions

Researchers (Kate Scott and John Barrett) at Leeds collaborated with researchers at UCL to investigate changes to the UK energy system if emissions embodied in fuels and energy technologies extracted and manufactured overseas to help meet UK final demand for energy are mitigated in the UK’s territorial target. The model outcomes, which favour an increase in nuclear energy due to cost and deployment assumptions in the energy system model, are discussed in the context of technology barriers, and suggest reductions in end-use energy demand could be a more effective way to meet UK climate targets through energy policy.

Read the full article here.

A multi-method approach for analysing the potential employment impacts of material efficiency

Anne Owen’s paper is featured in the latest issue of Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Read the full article here.


Material efficiency, reducing the amount of new material inputs per given level of service or output, can improve both the resource efficiency of an economy and reduce demand for energy and GHG emissions intensive materials. It requires a change in the way materials, components and final products are used along the supply chain with associated impacts on employment. Domestic policy support for material efficiency can be hindered by concerns that reducing demand for new materials will impact on employment. A multi-method approach for evaluating the employment impacts of material efficiency strategies across different products and regions is presented. It is applied to two case studies that could reduce demand for new steel in the UK: car clubs and re-using steel sections. Industry interviews supplemented by a literature review reveal how sector labour intensity, product prices and sales volumes might change along the mobility and construction supply chains in the short-term as a consequence of introducing these strategies. A static multi-regional input-output model is used to estimate the immediate direct and indirect supply chain employment impacts of increasing the material efficiency of steel use in the UK. The principal finding of this paper, based on industry expectations of feasible rates of deployment, is that the initial, immediate consequences of these actions would not adversely affect employment prospects in the UK. This is partly because car clubs can stimulate demand for new vehicles and deconstructing rather than demolishing buildings is labour intensive, substituting domestic labour for imported steel. These initial findings should motivate further research on the opportunities for material efficiency.

CIE-MAP gives evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee

CIE-MAP Director John Barrett gave evidence to the Commons Select Committee for Energy and Climate Change on 1st March on ‘Setting the fifth carbon budget’.

Professor Barrett (of the University of Leeds) joined by Richard Leese (Mineral Products Association), Lawrence Slade (EnergyUK), Philip Sellwood (Energy Saving Trust) and Nina Skorupska (Renewable Energy Association).

A video of the meeting is available here


Explaining value chain differences in MRIO databases through structural path decomposition

Many multiregional input–output (MRIO) databases are used to calculate consumption-based accounts. Results feature in climate policy discussion on emissions reduction responsibilities; yet studies show that outcomes produced by each database differ. This paper compares the emissions associated with value chains from Eora, EXIOBASE, GTAP and WIOD. Structural path analysis identifies the largest paths in each database and the differences in common paths are calculated. For the top 100 value chain paths that contain the largest difference, structural path decomposition is used to identify the contribution each part of the value chain makes towards the difference. The results identify and quantify key flows that are the cause of difference in the databases. From these, we can conclude that key MRIO database construction decisions, such as using the residence or territorial principle for emissions allocation and whether energy spends are reallocated based on physical data, are the major causes of differences.

Read the paper here.

Low Carbon Routemap for the Built Environment

Researchers from CIEMAP have been working with Arup to produce a progress update against the 2013 Green Construction Board Low Carbon Routemap for the Built Environment. The Routemap serves as a visual tool enabling stakeholders to understand the policies, actions and key decision points required to achieve the UK Government target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment vs 1990 levels by 2050. The Routemap sets out actions, together with key performance indicators that can be used to deliver and measure progress in meeting the 2050 target. This 2015 update includes more recently available data and significant improvements to the consideration of capital (embodied) carbon. Overall the findings indicate towards an increase in built environment emitted carbon and a widening of the gap to the 50% sector reduction ambition by 2025. A significant transformation from the ongoing ‘status quo’ trajectory is urgently needed.

Read the progress report here.

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