Tackling the Climate Emergency

12 Sep 2019

The North London Waste Authority recognises the Climate Emergency declarations which have been made, and is clear that the new energy recovery facility is a positive part of North London’s action to tackle climate change.

By converting waste into energy, we avoid the need for the alternative, which is sending waste that can’t be recycled to landfill. Landfill produces methane which is a highly damaging greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Government has recognised that landfill is undesirable and has imposed a high landfill tax which rightly discourages the use of this option for waste disposal.

While there is no route for waste disposal which has zero emissions, using our new energy from waste facility will save the equivalent of 215,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide compared with impact of doing so via landfill. That’s like taking 110,000 cars of the road each year.

In addition, we have designed the facility to provide a combination of heat (for up to 10,000 homes nearby) and power, to export to the grid. That reduces the need to develop other ways of generating this heat and electricity which saves emissions elsewhere. The Mayor of London sets a target known as a Carbon Intensity Floor which ensures that energy generated from waste activities is no more polluting in carbon terms than the energy source it replaces. Our plant will operate up to 25% better than the Mayor of London’s target.

More broadly, the energy from waste sector represents only 4% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Between 1990 and 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from the waste management sector decreased by 73 per cent. The Committee on Climate Change states the waste sector is the only UK industry to out perform its ‘carbon budget’ obligations, with climate change effects reducing much faster than targeted as landfill use is reduced. The vast majority of emissions from the waste sector are from landfill sites with less than 0.05% of the national greenhouse gas emissions figure being from waste incineration.

Even in Greater London, where landfill is much less common, waste incineration represents only 0.76% of total carbon dioxide emissions. This compares to 28.1% from road transport.

Therefore, the development of this efficient, modern facility is a positive step in tackling the Climate Emergency. The fact it is located within the area of the population it serves means that we avoid the emissions associated with transporting the waste to a more distant destination.