Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy

Last updated: 30 September 2021

7. Evidence Base

Global to Local Carbon Emissions 2018

Global carbon emissions are continuing to rise and their distribution is uneven globally as shown previously in Table 1. Table 2 below shows the annual carbon emissions to a more local scale, showing the total of Buckinghamshire in comparison to other councils. Buckinghamshire has per person emissions in line with the national average. The total emissions by county can vary by a large degree to other counties, however the per person emissions tend to be closer. There are a range of factors which may influence the total carbon and per person emissions, such as the population of the area and how rural or urban it is in character.

2018 carbon emissions from global to local scales (Table 2)
Emissions Source Total Carbon emissions (kilotonnes CO2) Percentage of Carbon emissions Per Person (tonnes CO2/person)
Global 36.5 million 100% 4.8
UK 366 thousand ~1% of global emissions 5.2
Bedfordshire 2,420 0.7% of the UK 5.3
Hertfordshire 5,877 1.6% of the UK 5.0
Hillingdon (London Borough) 1,383 0.4% of the UK 4.5
Buckinghamshire 2,832 0.8% of the UK 5.2
Cambridgeshire 4,523 1.2% of the UK 6.9
Oxfordshire 4,079 1.1% of the UK 5.9

Emissions Source data

Together transportation related emissions account for 51% of emissions in Buckinghamshire. Although motorways account for only 1.8% of the total length of roads in Buckinghamshire, they account for 45% of transport emissions and 23% of total emissions.

Land use, land use change and forestry remove more carbon than emitted and act as a net ‘sink’ for ~3% of carbon emissions in Buckinghamshire.

Buckinghamshire Carbon Emissions

Carbon emission data at an area wide scale requires multiple different sources of data to be brought together. The Government compile this data and a summary of the key emission sources in Buckinghamshire is shown in table 3 below.

2018 carbon emissions from global to local scales (Table 3)

Source Annual Carbon Emissions (kilotonnes CO2) Percentage of Carbon Emissions
Business and Agriculture 578 20%
Domestic: Gas 575 20%
Domestic: Electricity 231 8%
Domestic: Other fuels 95 3%
Transport: Motorway 657 23%
Transport: All other roads 746 26%
Transport: Rail and others 48.5 2%
Land use, land-use change and forestry -99 -3%

Together transportation related emissions account for 51% of emissions in Buckinghamshire. Although motorways account for only 1.8% of the total length of roads in Buckinghamshire, they account for 45% of transport emissions and 23% of total emissions.

Land use, land use change and forestry remove more carbon than emitted and act as a net ‘sink’ for ~3% of carbon emissions in Buckinghamshire.

Buckinghamshire Pathway to 2050

Reaching net-zero for Buckinghamshire is a hugely complex and difficult task. Some of the mechanisms for reducing or removing emissions are not elements which we can influence via financial or regulatory means, for example:

  • Based on the number of domestic gas meters, removing emissions from domestic gas supplies (20% of total) might require removing or replacing over 180,000 gas boilers in Buckinghamshire.
  • Road based emissions require a revolution in the transportation sector, away from conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to ultra-low or zero emission equivalents. We have a role in providing electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help service this transition, with subsidies and the regulation of the manufacturing sector sitting with the national government.
  • Electric vehicles need powering from renewable energy sources, with the regulation of the power sector a function of national government.
  • Market forces influence the development and deployment of low emission technologies.
  • The scale of motorway-based emissions indicates that a substantial portion of emissions on our roads are from those traveling through Buckinghamshire, for which regional and national transport issue need considering.

The above points help to show the scale and complexity of the task and the need to address these issues both locally and nationally. Our actions focus on what we can do locally in Buckinghamshire. However, as our motion indicates, we will work with the Government to support achieving net zero in Buckinghamshire and nationally.

Economic, Population and Housing Growth

Buckinghamshire is a prosperous area of the country and is also an area experiencing notable housing growth and an increasing population. Carbon emissions in Buckinghamshire may therefore be expected to increase over time in the absence of action to reduce emissions from the existing population. The overall picture is complex however, with electricity becoming more renewable (low carbon) and improvements in energy efficiency the trend nationally has been for emissions to decline whilst population has grown.

We have not attempted to model the impact of a growing population or economy on emissions in Buckinghamshire, but we recognise that these are relevant factors which will impact overall emissions.

Buckinghamshire Council’s Carbon Emissions

We commissioned a carbon audit to better understand the make-up of our own carbon emissions for the 2018/19 financial year (the base year).

Buckinghamshire Council's carbon emissions (Table 4)
Activity 2018/19 Annual Carbon Emissions (T CO2e) % of Annual Emissions
Buildings – Gas Consumption 1,887 21%
Buildings – Electricity Consumption 2,516 28%
Street Lighting – Electricity Consumption 2,336 26%
Council Fleet 1,258 14%
Business Travel 988 11%
Total 8,985 100%

The emissions shown in Table 4 above are those from the council’s operations, such as the buildings and vehicles we operate. Business travel emissions relate to emissions from staff and Councillors in their own vehicles where a mileage expense claim was made. Emissions from the use of public transport, such as train journeys, for work travel weren’t captured as the data is not available.

This data does not cover our services where our staff do not directly provide it, for example waste collection vehicles operated around Wycombe, Chiltern and South Buckinghamshire areas. However, these activities are still included within the scope of this strategy which covers the council’s emissions, as well as those of suppliers, partners and Buckinghamshire wide emissions.

It is currently difficult to benchmark the council’s emissions to other authorities because of the wide range of differences which make comparisons difficult. For example, different services are provided by a district, county or unitary council. Comparison between councils of the same type is also difficult as reporting methods differ and the way services are delivered also varies, for example whether a service is provided by the council directly or by suppliers.

Council Pathway to 2050

We have set ourselves the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions no later than 2050. In addition, we are establishing milestone targets for 2030 and 2040. We have aligned these with the UK’s national baseline of 1990 in order to aid comparison of carbon reduction levels between Buckinghamshire and the UK.

Compared to our estimated 1990 carbon emissions, we will:

  • reduce our carbon emissions by at least 75% by 2030
  • reduce our carbon emissions by at least 90% by 2040
  • reach net zero carbon emissions no later than 2050

To enable this comparison, it is necessary to estimate our emissions for 1990 as we do not hold accurate data on our emissions from this year. Data gathered during the carbon audit covered emissions as far back as 2009; we have assumed that energy usage (i.e. in kilowatt hours) was the same in 1990 as 2009, updating electricity emission with the correct emissions factor from 1990.

The UK’s national target is to reach net zero carbon emission by 2050 with an interim target of achieving a 68% reduction by 2030, based on 1990 emission levels.

Compared to our 2018/19 baseline, our emissions reductions targets are to reduce our carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve an 80% reduction by 2040.

The UK’s national targets are established in 5 year ‘Carbon Budgets’ which set the target emissions for the UK over that period. We will be reflecting this approach in monitoring our own progress towards the above targets – further details on our First Carbon Budget are set out later in this document.

Air Quality Monitoring

A national network of automatic air quality monitoring stations is managed by Defra. These sites provide high resolution hourly information which is communicated rapidly to the public, using a wide range of electronic, media and web platforms. Details of both automatic and non-automatic monitoring networks [systems that measure less frequently compared to automatic networks - either daily, weekly or monthly - and samples are collected by some physical means (such as diffusion tube or filter)] can be found on the UK Air website.

Buckinghamshire Council mainly monitors nitrogen dioxide using passive diffusion tube technology. Some can be found in the AQMAs, others are found on village high streets and on busy roads. The results for each calendar year can be found in the Annual Status Reports. We also manage and maintain two continuous monitoring stations in Buckinghamshire - in Stokenchurch and High Wycombe. The locations and readings from these continuous monitoring stations can be found on the UK Air Quality website.

Buckinghamshire Council, in conjunction with Spelthorne and Heathrow Airport Limited, received grant funding to trial low-cost sensors in the South Bucks area. Further information on the sensors and monitoring data can be seen on the Air Quality England website.