East Devon is looking to establish a carbon emissions baseline to help measure its carbon reductions in future years

The new council at East Devon has identified climate change as a priority and this will be reflected in the new Council Plan. As part of signing up to the Devon Climate Change Declaration (July 2019), we are aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040. The Devon Climate Change Declaration commits us to establishing an accurate carbon footprint and developing a local climate change action plan.

Carbon neutrality is a term used to describe the action that organisations, businesses and individuals take to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as each put into it. The overall goal of carbon neutrality is to achieve a zero carbon footprint.

Establishing an accurate carbon emissions baseline is vital, so we can measure our journey towards carbon neutrality and make informed intervention decisions in the process.

To do this we will need to commission expert independent advice and support who will organise our  data for us, which will then be interpreted, and this will allow us to identify where we can have the greatest impact and the timescales in which we can achieve our ambitions.

We are working with the University of Exeter to ensure that we accurately capture all of our carbon uses from our buildings, vehicle fleet etc, so we have an improved understanding of our carbon footprint.

Initial discussions have shown that there are five stages of establishing a carbon footprint. These include:

  • Defining the boundaries - an initial assessment of the scope of emissions (emissions from activities owned or controlled by East Devon that release emissions into the atmosphere, as well as emissions associated with our consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling).
  • Gathering data - we will need to identify data and much of it will involve plotting our property portfolio, the energy consumption from these premises, plus vehicle use, business mileage etc.
  • Analysing data - using the data collected, tables and graphs will be produced, which will contribute to our Climate Change Action Plan.
  • Spreadsheet creation - a bespoke spreadsheet will be created for capturing our carbon emissions and the conversion factors for each type of emission. This will allow us to compare future years with the baseline.
  • Report writing - we will prepare a report on the data collected and will identify what we need to do and where we can have the greatest impact.

Once our carbon footprint is established, we can refine our ambitions through a local climate change action plan. We can then start to predict the costs associated with our plans, and the period over which we will be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

A carbon footprint is not an end in itself, it is merely the start of being able to identify and delivery carbon reductions.

We have long recognised that we have a role to play in ‘getting our own house in order’ by reducing our carbon footprint, but also by influencing and enabling our businesses, partners, communities and visitors to do likewise.

Earlier in July our Cabinet received a comprehensive report on our response to the climate change emergency, which you can read on the East Devon website. This report follows on from an earlier scoping report.

At the July meeting we agreed a number of recommendations:

  • to sign up to the Devon Climate Change Emergency Declaration
  • to work with Devon County Council and other partners to produce a Devon wide action plan on climate change
  • to prepare an East Devon District Council action plan to reduce its’ carbon footprint
  • to link the Council plan with the work of the Low Carbon Task Force; and
  • to support the acceleration of the proposals to achieve zero carbon development in the West End of the district
  • to reflect climate change as a priority in the new Council Plan and future updates of Service Plans and relevant corporate policies

At the Cabinet meeting we  also discussed a variety of actions that could have a positive impact on helping climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. Many of these issues will need to be captured in our local action plan including:

• We need to show leadership in the community and to produce a solid framework, from which we can operate

• Planting  more trees to offset some of our carbon produced

• Local housing stock to be more energy efficient such as having solar panels to become carbon neutral with any surplus brought back to be reinvested in climate change education

• Working with the farming community to reduce the production of methane in order to gain the greatest carbon capture

• Keeping records of what we are doing in order to make calculations and informed decisions

• We have noted that carbon capture is being lost through the development of new roads, houses and industrial estates reliance on concrete   • Baseline surveys need to be evolving documents in order to establish carbon emissions

• Regular quarterly update reviews need to be produced

• We must reflect the climate change emergency within the council itself

• We need to work together with local public transport to improve and coordinate their timetables

• Lobby central government to revise building regulations

• No plastic drink containers to be sold on East Devon land or at our events

• Consider how to engage younger people

• Lobby local MPs to demonstrate on our behalf on local government finances • We need to look at the ecology of the district and draw up plans for new development to have sufficient green spaces

Carbon footprint facts

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organisation or community. It is measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) - CO2e is calculated by multiplying the emissions of each of the greenhouse gases by its 100 year global warming potential (GWP).

Having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal (often through carbon offsetting) or simply eliminating carbon emission altogether (the transition to a post-carbon economy). It is used in the context of carbon dioxide-releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, and commercial/industrial processes.

In the past we have performed calculations to show our carbon use and these can be found on the East Devon website.