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Britain’s commitment to AD in mitigating climate change needed more than ever ahead of COP26 – says trade body

Britain’s commitment to anaerobic digestion in mitigating climate change needed more than ever ahead of COP26 – says trade body 

  • IPCC Sixth Assessment report gives starkest warning yet to UK and world governments that time is running out to avert a climate catastrophe
  • UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association urges the UK Government to put words into action and support the deployment of anaerobic digestion (AD) as an immediate solution to cut greenhouse gas emissions – especially methane.
  • Fully deployed, AD could deliver 6% GHG emissions reduction by 2030, especially in carbon-intensive industries such as transport, heat and agriculture

As the UK prepares to host a critical COP26 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson reflects on a “sobering” Sixth Assessment report by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has renewed its call to the British Government to urgently create a policy framework that will unlock the industry’s potential to reduce UK annual greenhouse gas emissions by 6% by 2030 – and therefore play a vital role in mitigating the climate emergency within this decade.

Charlotte Morton, ADBA’s Chief Executive, explains: “Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a mature, readily available technology which offers a fully circular and immediate solution to help address climate change in the short- as well as long term, by capturing methane-emitting organic wastes and transforming them into biogas (also known as biomethane), digestate (a biofertiliser), bioCO2 and other valuable bioproducts,. Crucially, AD helps decarbonise carbon-intensive industries such as transport, heat and agriculture by producing alternatives to fossil-based fuels, gases and fertilisers.

The UK AD sector has however suffered from a lack of coordination between government departments to provide a coherent platform on which to fully deploy this industry, which not only generates green energy but also acts as a waste management solution. Our research has shown that there are 170 million tonnes of organic wastes generated every year in the UK, most of which is mismanaged (eg. sent to landfill, incineration, or spread onto land , where they emit harmful greenhouse gases, especially methane, which is 84 times more toxic than CO2 over 20 years). If those organic wastes were treated through AD, the industry would be able to reduce those emissions by 3% upstream of the process and deliver another 3% cut in emissions downstream by displacing the fossil-based products currently used for transport, heating and farming.

“Given the very stark message issued by the IPCC, it is crucial that the British government shows leadership in fully integrating AD and biogas into its Paris Agreement and Net Zero targets”, she continues. “In its recent Progress Report to Parliament 2021, the UK Committee on Climate Change highlighted the huge gap between the Government’s ambition and policy reality. We were dismayed, for example, that ministers having vowed to treble the production of biomethane by 2030 in December, we found that the Transport Decarbonisation Plan published last month by the Department of Transport didn’t even mention it.

“Trucks and buses currently generate 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions from transport, which is itself the highest GHG emitting sector in the UK with 27%. Biomethane could reduce these HGVs emissions by 38%. Municipalities and major retailers are already successfully using fleets of biomethane-powered vehicles to decarbonise their operations – so why would policy-makers not embrace this option and support its rapid deployment?

“We are running out of time to avert a climate catastrophe and it’s time that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet put words into real action. The UK AD industry has already committed to delivering on its potential to support the UK’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions. All we now await is a similar commitment from our politicians to make things happen – let alone present Britain , ahead of a vitally important COP26, as a true climate change mitigation champion, capable of influencing other countries into adopting AD in their decarbonisation and Net Zero strategies. There is no Net Zero without biogas.“, Charlotte Morton concludes.

– ENDS –

For further information, contact:
Jocelyne Bia, Senior Communications Consultant
email: Jocelyne.bia@adbioresources.org ; tel: 020 3716 0592

Notes to Editors:

  • About anaerobic digestion (AD)
    • AD is a process that transforms society’s organic wastes into valuable bioproducts: biogas, a green gas which can be upgraded to biomethane, digestate, a biofertiliser that can replace fossil-based equivalents, and bio-CO2″.
    • By capturing and transforming methane-emitting organic matter into biogas and digestate, AD helps mitigate climate change as well as restore soil health. As well as producing bioproducts, it acts as a waste management technology that therefore reduces methane both upstream and downstream.
    • Biogas upgraded to biomethane can be directly injected into the existing gas grid and immediately decarbonise the heat sector
    • Biomethane-fuelled buses, refuse collection lorries and HGVs are already deployed in cities and by major retailers worldwide to decarbonise their operations. By fuelling an HGV with biomethane, greenhouse gas emissions can be cut by over 85%, compared to diesel.
    • Digestate, the biofertiliser produced as a residue to AD, helps displace fossil-based equivalents in agriculture and restore soils. On-farm AD also helps farmers generate their own energy to power their machinery and premises.
    • Biogas is highly versatile green gas, that can be converted to green hydrogen using existing technology if required. It can therefore help meet the future energy demands in both the near- and long-term.
  • Key facts about AD in the UK
    • There are currently 685 AD plants operational in the UK
    • The entire industry digests approximately 46 million tonnes of organic material each year – organic material that would otherwise emit greenhouse gas if left untreated in landfill.
    • An estimated 16 TWh of biogas is produced each year by the AD industry – this green gas is either used to generate electricity and heat via a combined heat and power (CHP) unit or upgraded to biomethane and injected directly into the national gas grid. This is enough to heat 1.3 million UK homes.
    • The industry currently delivers 1% greenhouse gas savings in the UK every year.
    • An estimated 4,800 people are currently employed in the AD and biogas industry in the UK.
    • Fully deployed, by 2030, the UK AD and biogas industry is expected to:
      •  create 30,000 direct and 30,000 indirect jobs
      • save the UK 27m t of CO2 equivalent = taking 1/3rd of all cars off the road, by 2030
      • heat 6.4 million UK homes with the 8 billion m3 of biomethane generated.
  • About ADBA
    The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) is the trade association for the UK anaerobic digestion (AD) and biogas industry. ADBA’s vision is to see the full potential of the UK AD industry realised so it can help the UK achieve its emissions targets and other policy goals, creating a truly circular economy. www.adbioresources.org
  • ADBA research
    Biomethane: the pathway to 2030 (2019)
    Biomethane: fuelling a transport revolution (2021)
    Biomethane and hydrogen: two green gases, one future (2021)
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