Ellie Ames 27 July 2023

Local authorities falling behind on indirect emissions

Local authorities falling behind on indirect emissions image
Image: NicoElNino / Shutterstock.com.

Councils are behind the private sector on gathering data about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions they produce indirectly, including through employee commuting, according to new research.

Climate technology company Mobilityways, who focus on zero carbon commuting, surveyed local authorities about their reporting on ‘Scope 3’ emissions data.

GHG emissions can be categorised into three scopes, as set out by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, comprising: Scope 1, direct emissions; Scope 2, indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heat and steam; and Scope 3, all other indirect emissions.

Scope 3 includes emissions produced from purchased goods and services, business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal and investment. These indirect emissions make up around 70% of an organisation’s total emissions, according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Mobilityways said only 29% of local authority respondents reported that they had begun collecting data on Scope 3 emissions. Of those that had, only 7% had worked out a way to measure GHG emissions from employee commutes.

Julie Furnell, managing director of Mobilityways, said: ‘Our research findings suggest that local authorities are behind other sectors.

‘They don’t seem to be able to devote sufficient resources to gathering and making sense of emissions data and then setting achievable category-level emission reduction targets.’

Mobilityways also said local authorities expressed ‘major concerns’ about the quality and of the emissions data they were gathering, including about the lack of standardisation and an over-reliance on suppliers’ self-reported data.

However, the company said councils had made progress on reducing their buildings’ emissions, partly because of Government grants.

Ms Furnell said that although this was positive, councils’ ‘hard focus on chasing central Government grants to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings has come at the expense of tapping other, more cost-effective, emission reduction opportunities.’

She added: ‘Encouraging staff behaviour change to reduce emissions is surely the next big opportunity to ensure local authorities stay on track to hit their 2030 or 2035 net zero targets.’

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