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New initiatives help us to avoid post-Covid emissions ‘bounceback’

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Our carbon emissions have stabilised, confounding fears that a post-pandemic ‘bounce back’ would cause levels to spike.

Newly published figures show that we are still ahead of schedule our goal of becoming a net-zero authority by 2030.

The figures show that the total level of emissions produced by us in the 2021/22 financial year was 19,767 tonnes (of carbon dioxide equivalent), a 53 per cent fall when compared to the 41,735 tonnes our baseline year of 2012/13.

This means we are ahead of target to achieve a 70 per cent reduction by 2030 with the remainder of our emissions to be offset, for instance, through tree planting schemes.

There were concerns that the emission figures for 2020/21 were artificially low, primarily driven by that year’s lockdowns.

The thinking was that because so many of our staff had worked from home that this would lead to artificially lower emissions figures caused by reduced travelling for work and business travel and lower energy usage in our corporate buildings.

And that we returned to the office emissions would then begin to rise significantly and that would be seen in the 2021/22 figures.

However, this doesnt appear to be the case. Although our emissions in the last financial year did increase when compared to the previous ‘lockdown’ year, the rise was marginal from 19,756 tonnes to 19,767 tonnes, an increase of just 0.05 per cent.

And when compared with the pre-lockdown year 2019/2020, last year’s figures are almost nine per cent lower.

Reasons for the continued decline in emission reductions are the result of our on-going energy efficiency projects and the introduction of new technology.

These include the installation of solar arrays and heat pumps in our corporate buildings and the ongoing replacement of 79,000 streetlights with more efficient LEDs. Street lighting is one of the authority’s main sources of emissions.

And the reduced carbon intensity of the grid electricity we use due to renewables is also helping to reduce our carbon footprint.

For instance, more than half of the grid electricity we use now comes from non-fossil fuel sources.

Councillor Andrea Davies, DCC’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport said:

“Not surprisingly, emissions increased very slightly last year against the previous ‘lockdown’ year but are still 8.7 per cent lower when compared to 2019/20.

“It shows that we have not experienced a significant emission ‘bounce back’ which is great news. There was concern that the significant progress we have made would be reversed.

“But that has not been the case and its partly due to the increases in carbon emissions from business travel experienced last year being countered by a reduction in emissions from street lighting due to the LED upgrade programme.

“Additionally, we expect to see further progress being made next year as the impact of major building retrofits, solar PV installations and electric vehicle purchases we achieved this year kicks in.”