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Climate / Council carbon emissions figure increases fivefold after new calculations

SHETLAND Islands Council’s carbon footprint is more than five times higher than previously thought, it has emerged.

More detailed analysis of emissions as part of work on a council-wide net zero route map estimates the SIC emits a total of 122,692 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) over the space of a year.

That is more than five tonnes of CO2e per islander per year the council emits to provide public services.

Under the existing, but now outdated, reporting system the council reported emissions of 23,105 tCO2e for 2019/20.

The problem of local authorities in Scotland under-estimating its carbon footprint was first highlighted by The Ferret in May this year after a “first robust analysis” of East Renfrewshire Council saw its climate emissions quadruple to almost 60,000 tonnes.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Shetland Islands Council has now followed suit and is reporting a staggering five-fold increase in its climate impact. New guidance on emission reporting for councils had been published by the Scottish Government in 2021. 

The new figures, which include so-called scope three emissions such as waste incineration, landfill emissions but also employee commute, business travel and refrigerants, should give council officers a much better handle on understanding the sources of emissions and devise appropriate decarbonisation strategies.

Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said she was confident these latest figures were much closer to reality than before.

The guidance coming from government is being updated to help authorities clear up ambiguities which helps,” she said.

“It is a statutory requirement to report these figures as accurately as possible and we must do our part to meet the Scottish Government’s net-zero targets. 

“To do this well we must have these accurate figures to first baseline where we are, plan and implement our pathways to meet targets and then measure our progress as we go.”

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The council’s chair of the environment and transport committee Moraig Lyall said the new figures will give the council a clearer picture of where the majority of emissions are created and of where the most effective changes can be made to reduce the SIC’s carbon footprint.

“Work on the net zero route maps, the decarbonisation plans we will follow for both the council and Shetland as a whole, are well advanced and should be presented to the council later in the year,” the Shetland Central councillor said.

“In the meantime a good number of projects are already underway looking at reducing our own emissions and beginning to engage with partners across the islands to encourage industries and businesses to consider the actions they need to take in this area.”

The current plan is to have the net zero route maps presented to the environment and transport committee in September.

Shetland has always been the local authority area with the largest per capita carbon footprint in the UK, with the inter-island ferries a key factor in this.

The latest figure, compiled by the UK Government, puts it at 21.6 tonnes per person in 2019.

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