UK carbon measuring centre 'to improve climate future'

NPL "Hot Box" The centre will make use of the NPL's existing "Hot Box" for testing building components

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A new UK facility aimed at improving measurement of carbon emissions and boosting development of clean technology is due to open.

The Centre for Carbon Measurement will be based at the National Physical Laboratory in south-west London.

It will raise accuracy of climate data, support better emissions monitoring to ensure a fair carbon market, and verify claims made about low-carbon products.

It will be formally launched at the Planet Under Pressure event in London.

The four-day conference will see thousands of delegates discuss various aspects of social and environmental sustainability in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit in June.

One of their key concerns is climate change - and the new Centre for Carbon Measurement (CCM) is aimed partially at improving the computer models that are just about the only tools scientists have to project the future of our warming planet.

"Data from ground based stations and satellites is fed into climate models, and they spit out conclusions on things like sea level rise and other climate impacts," said Jane Burston, the CCM's head.

"So the better data we have, the better we can make the models," she told BBC News.

Start Quote

The UK is a world leader in both measurement science and the centre of the global carbon market”

End Quote David Willets Science Minister

This part of the centre's work will involve working with other scientific institutions and commercial providers to improve the accuracy of instruments and calibration between them.

Staff will also look for ways of improving measurement of carbon emissions.

Scientists have previously shown that there can be wide disparities between emission levels reported by companies - which are usually based on calculations involving, for example, how much fuel they burn and the efficiency of their plant - and what is measured in the atmosphere.

Hi-tech low carbon

"We need to make sure that our measurement infrastructure matches our level of ambition," said Ms Burston.

"As the carbon market takes off and carbon becomes more expensive, we're going to want to measure things better."

The third main aim of the project involves low-carbon technologies, in sectors such as energy generation and building insulation.

The centre will help manufacturers develop their products and measure their performance, in order to make sure that companies' claims for "climate-friendliness" are based in reality.

Building materials can already be assessed in the NPL's "Hot Box" facility; but the centre will develop tools for monitoring performance in the real world as well.

David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science, whose government department manages the UK's various national measurement programmes, said the science of measurement was essential in underpinning the transition to a low carbon economy.

"As the UK is a world leader in both measurement science and the centre of the global carbon market it is only right that we develop the right infrastructure to support this transition," he said.

"The CCM is designed to provide reliable measurements with a sound scientific and technical basis that will improve the understanding of the global climate, support policies for mitigating climate change, and accelerate the development of low-carbon technologies."

Richard will be at the Planet Under Pressure conference on Monday and Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter

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