New initiative to measure UK greenhouse gas emissions

Environmental challenges

A first-of-its-kind initiative aims to develop a real-time integrated greenhouse gas emissions measurement dashboard for the UK.

NPL, the Met Office, the National Centre for Earth Observation, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the University of Bristol and others, will work together to create a single integrated network to monitor all sources and sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the UK.

Achieving UK GHG emission reduction targets and supporting global efforts to limit climate temperature rise is a highly complex challenge. Accurate ongoing measurement of emissions from known and unknown sources in the UK is crucial – firstly, to identify their sources of origin and then to mitigate and reduce them.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Measurement and Modelling Advancement (GEMMA) nationwide measurement system will include six existing tall tower sites, plus one site currently under construction and one entirely new site. The tall tower measurements will be augmented by a network of remote sensing instruments that measure the total amount of gases in the atmosphere above them. Data from the sites will be processed along with meteorological data to produce measured UK emissions rates. The intention is to make this data available online.

Over the next two years, the team will research, develop and demonstrate a system which will allow the UK to measure and assess changes in atmospheric GHGs on a monthly basis. The investment in new capability will bolster efforts to improve national GHG data, which provide powerful and timely insight into the UK’s net zero transition.

The total budget for the GEMMA programme is £12m, which is funded as part of the UK Research and Innovation strategic theme ‘Building a Green Future’ and the Natural Environment Research Council plus in-kind contributions from NPL and Met Office.

In this 2-minute video, Richard Barker, NPL’s Head of Energy and Environment, explains how GEMMA will allow the UK to accurately measure and assess changes in GHGs, including their source – eg: fossil gas leakage vs waste decomposition – and also the location of their point of origin:

“Climate change is one of the biggest societal challenges of our time and the UK led the world in declaring a net zero target by 2050,” said Richard Barker, head of environment, NPL.The scale and complexity of net zero demands the best available information and the GEMMA programme aims is to provide the big picture, integrated view that is necessary to enable and assure that UK investment delivers.”

Tom Gardiner, Principal Research Scientist, said:The GEMMA programme aims to use the latest developments in atmospheric measurements and modelling to determine the contributions of the different GHG sources and sinks to the overall UK inventory and how these change with time. It will be delivered through a unique collaboration that brings together key expertise from the academic and public sector research community, building on the strong UK capabilities in GHG measurement and inventory verification. The output from the two-year project will deliver a blueprint for a long-term framework to provide a detailed, measurement-based assessment of the UK’s progress towards delivering Net-Zero.”

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