2020 Carbon Footprint

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This report describes the greenhouse gas emissions produced by our (Devon County Council’s) activity (our ‘carbon footprint’) in the financial year from April 2019 to March 2020 (referred to as 2019/20). These emissions are compared to previous years’ data and our baseline year of April 2012 to March 2013 (referred to as 2012/13).

The Carbon Reduction Plan explains the activities we are implementing over the next 10 years to achieve a net-zero operation.


Our gross emissions are 48% below our baseline year of 2012/13 and we are ahead of target to achieve a 70% reduction by 2030.

Part A – Summary Table and Graphics

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol sets the global standard for how to measure, manage and report a carbon footprint. Within the standard, emissions are split into three scopes:

  • Scope 1 GHG emissions are ‘emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the organisation’. In our case this is the burning of fossil fuel (e.g. gas and diesel) in buildings and our vehicle fleet.
  • Scope 2 GHG emissions are defined as ‘emissions from the consumption of purchased energy’. In our case this is electricity.
  • Scope 3 GHG emissions are defined as ‘emissions that are a consequence of the operations of an organisation but are not directly owned or controlled by the organisation’. Scope 3 is an optional reporting category which can include several different sources of GHG emissions. In this report we have included GHG emissions associated with providing ‘home to school’ transport, travelling for our work purposes and the GHGs emitted during the process of extracting, refining and delivering fossil fuels and electricity to our business locations – these are termed ‘Well to Tank’ emissions.

Table 1 shows our gross 2019/20 emissions in comparison to previous years and the baseline year of 2012/13. The data is displayed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is a measure of the effect of a basket of greenhouse gas emissions on the atmosphere (such as methane and nitrous oxide), not just carbon dioxide. All the years are directly comparable as we have recalculated the data to remove the effect of significant changes to the organisation, such as a year where we may have closed a significant number of buildings. The 2019/20 gross emissions are 48% below 2012/13 levels.

DCC has started building its experience in carbon offsetting by attempting to purchase Woodland Carbon Units to equal 5% of the gross emissions in 2019/20. An initial open-market procurement exercise in February 2021 failed due to sellers wanting to keep hold of the Woodland Carbon Units due to speculation about forthcoming rapid price rises. Further attempts will be made to test the market and inform the authority’s offsetting strategy.

2012/13 Base Year 2014/15 2016/17 2019/20 % Change Base Year
Scope 1 4,667 3,598 3,456 2,598 -44%
Scope 2 18,701 18,518 14,173 6,252 -67%
Scope 3 18,367 14,242 12,994 12,791 -30%
Gross Emissions 41,735 36,358 30,623 21,641 -48%
Gross Expenditure (£m) 1,319 1,229 1,198 1,240 -6%
Gross Emissions per £m of Gross Expenditure 32 30 26 17 -45%

Table 1: Devon County Council’s gross greenhouse gas emissions data for 1st April 2012 to 31st March 2020 displayed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).

Figure 1 shows the gross corporate greenhouse gas emissions for each year on a bar chart. Included in Figure 1 is an orange line showing the level below which our emissions need to be to reach our target of reducing gross corporate emissions by 70% by 2030 from 2012/13 levels. The remaining 30% will be offset through certified carbon offsetting mechanisms in the United Kingdom to achieve ‘net-zero emissions’.

Graph showing declining gross corporate greenhouse gas emissions from 2012/13 to 2019/20

Pie chart showing 2019/20 gross greenhouse gas emissions by source. School transport 9,255 tCO2e (43%); corporate property 2,977 tCO2e (14%); street lighting 5,436 tCO2e (25%); vehicle fleet 1,485 tCO2e (7%) and business travel 2,485 tCO2e (11%).

Part B – Supporting Explanations

Company Information

Devon County Council is the upper tier local authority in Devon, excluding the unitary areas of Torbay and Plymouth.

Quantification and Reporting Methodology

We have followed the Defra Guidance on ‘Environmental Reporting Guidelines: including mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting’ dated October 2013. The scope of the carbon footprint is based on our activities that can either be measured from consumption data or reasonably estimated from finance data. We have used the 2019 emissions factors from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for this assessment. The estimation of upstream supply chain emissions covered under ‘Scope 3 Exclusions’ below have used the latest emissions factors available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs dated 2009. No assessment is made for downstream end-of-life disposal emissions.

Organisational Boundary

DCC has used the financial control approach to identify operations from which to collect data. Therefore, schools and leased properties are excluded.

Operational Scopes

DCC has measured its scope 1, 2 and available scope 3 emissions. These are shown in Table 2 along with the change in the previous 12 months.

2018/19 GHG (tCO2e) 2019/20 GHG (tCO2e) % Change in last year % of relevant scope in 2019/20
Scope 1
Gas 1,248 1,368 +10% 🔴 53%
Biomass 0 0 – 🟡 0%
Oil 26 24 -8% 🟡 1%
LPG 8 9 +17% 🔴 0%
Fleet 1,320 1,198 -9% 🟡 46%
Fugitive Emissions from refrigerants not assessed but thought to be low. Emissions from refrigerants not assessed but thought to be low. Emissions from refrigerants not assessed but thought to be low. Emissions from refrigerants not assessed but thought to be low.
Total Scope 1 2,601 2,598 0%
Scope 2
Purchased electricity – street lighting 5,809 5,010 -14% 🟢 80%
Purchased electricity – corporate 1,502 1,239 -17% 🟢 20%
Total Scope 2 7,311 6,250 -15%
Available Scope 3
School transport 7,039 7,471 +6% 🟡 58%
Business travel 2,001 1,991 0% 🟡 16%
Water 41 41 0% 🟡 0%
Well to Tank 3,277 3,288 0% 🟡 26%
Total Scope 3 12,358 12,791 +4%

Table 2: Devon County Counci’s scope 1, 2 and 3 gross greenhouse gas emissions in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).

Scope 3 Exclusions

In addition to the emissions from the fossil fuel and electricity used to operate school buildings, which are not formally reported as we do not have financial control over these assets, Scope 3 emissions from waste generated by DCC, employee commuting and leased assets are excluded due to difficulties in collecting relevant and timely data.

Supply Chain Carbon Footprint

Indicative carbon emissions from our supply chain for 2019/20, estimated using carbon intensity factors for different types of public sector activity, are 346ktCO2e. This remains unchanged from previous years due to the calculation methodology that relies on carbon intensity factors from 2009. This figure demonstrates that our impact on climate change is far more significant than just the calculated emissions our corporate carbon footprint.

Reasons for Changes in Emissions

Our gross GHG emissions are 48% below the 2012/13 base year. Reasons for this are:

  • Improvement in the carbon intensity of grid electricity
  • Replacement of older boilers with condensing models through the maintenance programme
  • Installation of LED lighting in corporate property through the maintenance programme
  • Installation of part-night and LED street lighting
  • Installation of heat pumps in corporate buildings
  • Installation of solar arrays on corporate buildings
  • Gradual improvement in the carbon intensity of staff vehicles
  • Technology enabling less travel, such as Windows 10 and Microsoft Teams

Base Year

We will recalculate the base year emissions whenever:

  • Property disposals and terminated services represent 5% or more of base year emissions
  • New properties, services or previously excluded emissions make the base year incomparable
  • There is a significant change in reporting accuracy that makes the base year incomparable.

We recalculated Base Year emissions and subsequent years’ emissions in 2017/18 to reflect the significant outsourcing of services and staff reductions that had occurred. The components that were recalculated were emissions from corporate property and business travel. Disposed buildings were removed from previous years’ data. Business travel emissions were recalculated by multiplying the ‘business travel emissions per employee’ arising in each previous year by the number of employees in the organisation in 2017/18.

2012/13 has been retained as the base year, which remains relevant in the context of our new Carbon Reduction Plan.


Our Carbon Reduction Plan has set targets to reduce the corporate carbon emissions by 70% over the 2012/13 baseline by 2030 and offset the remaining 30% to achieve ‘net-zero emissions’.

The declared gross carbon footprint in this report is 48% below the base year. This performance is ahead of schedule. The net carbon footprint is 51% below the base year.

Intensity Measurement

We have chosen to use Gross Operating Expenditure as the intensity measurement. This provides an indication of the extent of activity we deliver and is applicable to all components of the carbon footprint. Our gross emissions per million-pound spend has reduced by 45% since 2012/13.

External Assurance Statement

Our GHG emissions data is not covered by an External Assurance Statement.

Green Energy Tariffs

We have not purchased a green energy tariff or carbon offsets.

Woodland Carbon Units

We have not retired any Woodland Carbon Units.

Renewable Electricity Generation

Our solar PV arrays on non-school properties have generated 229MWh of renewable electricity in 2019/20 saving 63.5 tCO2e.

Renewable Heat Generation

We have not generated renewable heat in our non-school properties.