In 2007 the Minister for the Environment appointed a committee of experts to explore the technical possibilities of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in different sectors of the Icelandic economy. The committee was also to explore sequestration potential and the use of the Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanism. This report is a comprehensive summary of the committee’s assessments.

Greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland were 4.482 thousand tons in 2007 (CO2 eq.). That amounts to 1.082 tons and a 32% increase from 1990. Emissions increased in all sectors except fisheries (18% reduction) and agriculture (7% reduction). The greatest increase in emissions was from the ferrous alloys industry (91%) and the aluminum industry (72%). However, emissions per ton of aluminum produced have decreased while aluminum production has increased 420% since 1990.

In addition, emissions due to land-use, changes in land-use and forestry were 1.824 thousand tons and total sequestration was 642 thousand tons. Therefore net emissions were 1.212 thousand tons in 2007, which amounts to 27% of total emissions that fall under the Kyoto protocol. Emissions due to land use and forestry are reported to the UNFCCC agreement, but do not fall under the Kyoto protocol. Sequestration due to land reclamation and forestry that occurred after 1990 is subject to the Protocol where special emission allowances are allocated due to such sequestration. In 2007 this amount was 279 thousand tons CO2 in 2007.

The Environmental Agency (UST) has created a business-as-usual (BAU) greenhouse gas emissions forecast to 2050, in which there are two alternative scenarios. In scenario 1 it is assumed that future production by energy intensive industries equals production capabilities at the end of year 2008. Based on this assumption, total emissions in 2020 in scenario 1 are 4.644 thousand tons which amounts to 4% increase from 2007 and 37% increase from 1990. In scenario 2 it is assumed that production by energy intensive industries will reach full permitted levels in 2015. According to scenario 2, emissions in 2020 will reach nearly 6 million tons tons, that is a 33% increase from 2007 and a 76% increase from 1990 levels.

Mitigation methods describe possible means of reducing emissions beyond BAU scenarios 1 and 2, without reducing economic activity. Each mitigation method is evaluated based on cost, benefits and quantity abated. The results should be interpreted as an assessment of technical capabilities of reducing emissions. Whether those capabilities are realized depends on future cost, economic growth, development and diffusion of technology in addition to government policy. As a result, substantial differences can occur between mitigation that technically can be realized and the mitigation that is realized in the end.

The results indicate that it is possible to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland. Compared to BAU scenario 1 and if all possible mitigation methods are implemented – regardless of cost – net emissions will be 52% lower in 2020 than in the BAU scenario. This means 34% lower net emissions than in 1990 and 50% lower net emissions if compared to 2007. If wetland restoration is not included, net emissions in 2020 will be 22% lower than in 1990 and 40% lower than in 2007.

Using BAU scenario 2, and if all mitigation methods are implemented regardless of cost, results indicate that net emissions will be 40% lower than in the BAU scenario in 2020. This amounts to 3% higher net emissions than in 1990 and 21% lower net emissions if compared to 2007. If wetland restoration is not included, net emissions in 2020 will be 15% higher than in 1990 and 12% higher than in 2007. Read more here.

Mitigation methods that are technically feasible before 2020, distribute unevenly between sectors. The largest mitigation potential, regardless of cost, is in the fisheries sector, near 100% reduction from fishmeal production plants by electrification of the plants, and 75% reduction from the fishing sector by improving energy efficiency and switching to biofuels. Technically it is possible to reduce emissions from energy production by 50% and agriculture by 12%. Diverse mitigation methods are possible in the transportation sector, such as increased use of biofuels, electrification, improved energy efficiency, increased use of public transportation and increased walking and cycling. Technical improvement in the aluminum industry such as the use of carbon-free electrodes would render the aluminum industry virtually emissions free but this is unlikely to happen before 2020. However emissions can be reduced by 6% in the aluminum industry, 25% in the cement industry and 4% in the ferrous alloys industry by increased use of biofuels and increased energy efficiency. Increased sequestration beyond BAU by increasing land reclamation, forestry and wetland restoration, reduces net emissions by 32% in 2020 compared to scenario 1, and 25% compared to scenario 2.

The cost of mitigation differs substantially. Less expensive mitigation methods such as increased sequestration rates can reduce net emissions significantly. The cost ranges from methods that can be reached at a net benefit such as increased use of more efficient vehicles and increased walking and cycling, to substantially more expensive methods, such as switching to electric vehicles or hydrogen based vehicles. It must be kept in mind, that many of the more expensive technologies are not mature, and therefore cost is expected to decline in the future. Results indicate that mitigation methods that can reduce emissions at a net benefit can reduce emissions by 4% below BAU 2020 emissions, and mitigation methods that cost 0-20 euros can reduce emissions by 19% below BAU 2020 emissions scenario 1.

If net emissions need to be 40% lower than emissions in 1990, compared to 2020, net emissions cannot exceed 2.040 thousand tons in 1990. This means that 2.550 thousand tons must be mitigated in 2020 according to scenario 1, and 3.960 thousand tons in BAU scenario 2. It is possible to fulfill this goal by using multifaceted mitigation methods in all sectors, including increased sequestration, and the use of the flexibility mechanisms. It must however be kept in mind that the use of the flexibility mechanisms should only be utilized in addition to domestic efforts. The mitigation methods could include:

  • First, ensuring that BAU sequestration rates continue secures mitigation of 770 thousand tons.
  • Second, mitigation methods that cost less than 30 euros can mitigate 1.050 thousand tons in scenario 1 and 1.120 thousand tons in scenario 2.
  • Third, by the use of the flexibility mechanisms, emission permits in the amount of 730 thousand tons in scenario 1, and 2.070 thousand tons in scenario 2 could be purchased.

It must be kept in mind that capital investments, whether in energy intensive industries, fisheries or simply the family car, generally have long lifetimes and influence emissions long into the future. Therefore it is important to immediately direct capital investment towards cost-effective climate friendly technology.

Graphic. Green cars on the way to plant trees, releasing greenhouse gases doing so. Guðrún  Tryggvadóttir og Signþ Kolbeinsdóttir ©Nature.is.

Birt:
June 20, 2009
Tilvitnun:
Umhverfisráðuneytið „Miklir möguleikar á að draga úr losun gróðurhúsalofttegunda“, Náttúran.is: June 20, 2009 URL: http://nature.is/d/2009/06/20/miklir-moguleikar-ao-draga-ur-losun-groourhusaloft/ [Skoðað:May 23, 2019]
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