National Physical Laboratory

About us

The Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL reduces uncertainties in climate data, provides the robust measurement that is required to account for, price and trade carbon emissions and helps develop and accelerate the take up of low carbon technologies.

Why do we need a Centre for Carbon Measurement?

Measurement is critical to just about every aspect of our daily lives. We take for granted the accuracy and consistency of measurements going on all around us and on which we depend – often for our lives. When we buy 50 litres of petrol we don’t doubt we’re getting 50 litres. If we’re on an aeroplane or in a car their continued and safe operation depends on hundreds of measurements being made every second. If we require radiotherapy treatment for cancer – our life depends on accurate and consistent measurements of the radiation dose being delivered. 

This is the result of an often invisible web of scientific, technical, organisational and regulatory infrastructure. At the heart of that are National Measurement Institutes – NPL in the UK  – developing and applying new measurement science and technology and working with our international partners to ensure global consistency and agreement.

As new technology, activities and challenges arise this measurement infrastructure needs to keep in step. Climate change is a new challenge and the Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL is about ensuring the measurement infrastructure is there to support all these responses to the challenge of climate change.

Global climate change is one of the most challenging issues facing policy makers and business today. Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change will require coordination and collaboration between science, business and government.

The Centre for Climate Measurement brings measurement science to this challenging issue to provide critical support to the climate science, policy and low carbon business communities. The aim of the Centre is to provide a firm scientific and technological base to answer questions such as:

  • How can we improve the accuracy of climate data in order to better predict the extent and impact of climate change?
  • How can we provide confidence in greenhouse gas emission measurements to facilitate new international protocols and carbon trading?
  • How can we demonstrate the projects or policies really are reducing emissions?
  • What can we do to validate claims of new technology – such as how efficient of sustainable it may be – to give investors and customers confidence?
  • What will the impact of low carbon technologies be on our existing infrastructure and how will it need to change to accommodate them?
  • What international standards do we need to ensure consistency in measurement globally?


NPL has been working in areas relevant to climate science and a low carbon future for many years. For instance, NPL has a world leading capability in measurement science to support aspects of climate data collection (such as earth observation) and provides many of the highly accurate gas mixtures that are used to calibrate the international Global Atmospheric monitoring system.

Consultation with a wide range of people in government, business and academia demonstrated the need to increase the scale of work in climate change and low carbon measurement, in order to continue to provide the support that UK business and government need now and in the future.

The reason for this is that there is an ever-increasing breadth of regulatory regimes and low carbon technologies aimed at tackling climate change. The existing measurement infrastructure is inadequate to support the additional scaling-up of those activities if the UK is to meet its emission reduction targets under the Climate Change Act.

A period of 18 months consultation has been undertaken with a broad-based stakeholder advisory group, who have shaped the Centre’s proposition to date and will continue to provide guidance and monitoring to ensure the work-programme continuously addresses the highest priority areas for the UK. Their recommendations have resulted in a broad, relevant and high impact work-programme focused in three technical areas:

  1. Climate data - Providing confidence and reducing uncertainties in data used to monitor and to model climate change
  2. Carbon markets and accounting - Supporting existing and emerging tax, trade and regulatory instruments for carbon pricing and reporting
  3. Low carbon technologies - Accelerating development and assessing the performance of low-carbon technology 

Why base the Centre at NPL?

NPL is the UK’s National Measurement Institute – the organisation responsible for developing and applying new measurement science and technology, and working with international partners to ensure global consistency and agreement.

We represent the UK in an international network of laboratories that is responsible for maintaining the international measurement system that in turn ensures confidence and consistency in measurement across the globe. We are recognised internationally as being in the premier league of such laboratories (along with the US and Germany) and we already have a world-leading track record and reputation in many of the areas relevant to the Centre for Carbon Measurement.

Our role as a National Measurement Institute means that we interact with and collaborate with an enormous number of universities, research institutes, businesses and government departments – which is vital for ensuring a coordinated approach to the challenge of measurements for climate change.

We also have an excellent track record, we would say unrivalled internationally, of being the National Measurement Institute that delivers the biggest bang for the buck – in terms of our science and technology actually making a real difference to economic growth and to environmental and other social impacts.

For these reasons we provide the hub of the Centre for Carbon Measurement’s activities, with a number of partners from academia and industry also involved in the delivery of the Centre’s projects.

The Impact of Our Work

CCM Impact Report Thumbnail8 million tonnes of carbon emissions reductions and over half a billion pounds in economic benefit over the next decade.

Download the independent report

CCM logo


Please note that the information will not be divulged to third parties, or used without your permission