Climate emergency: know where you are

By Jo Wall | 19 February 2020

The UN Climate Change Conference – COP26 – will take place in Glasgow in November, where more than 200 world leaders are expected to meet to agree a new, long-term deal on rising temperatures. According to organisers of COP26, the UK has ‘one shot’ at making it a global success.

At the conference, countries need to agree a major boost in carbon reduction to keep rising global temperatures under 1.5oC this century. Without action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the global rise will be much closer to a potentially catastrophic 3-4oC.

As a local authority, what action do you take first? The key focus must be to limit emissions to achieve net-zero carbon, and to deliver this as quickly as possible.

If you don’t already have a good grasp of your current emissions, it is important to create an auditable baseline to understand what you need to achieve. If you must commission this externally, ensure your end product is a tool that enables you to update your own baseline annually to avoid consultancy reports that require yearly recommissioning.

Councils have a statutory requirement to report on their emissions. Scope 1 are those directly owned or controlled, such as fleet vehicle fuel or gas boilers. Scope 2 are those created through energy production (your electricity supply).

Around 80% of your emissions will come from indirect sources, called Scope 3. These include purchased goods and services (such as outsourced waste or maintenance services), staff business travel, waste disposal, transportation and distribution, investments and leased assets and franchises.

Scope 3 reporting will be challenging initially as much of the data is not recorded. It is important to start collecting this data so we do not just ‘outsource’ our emissions. An initial wide-and-shallow approach will help to identify both the larger areas to tackle and sources of better data.

Local Partnerships strongly recommends an asset review as part of the baseline assessment. Once you understand your full baseline position, you can begin to look at the opportunities to create carbon budgets with clear targets to develop trajectories to net-zero.


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