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Wiltshire Climate Strategy Discussion Document January 2021

Carbon neutral council

Wiltshire Council has been working to reduce its carbon emissions for over a decade. Since 2010 the council has been monitoring and reporting its carbon emissions, in line with UK government requirements. A suite of documents was produced to help steer the council in its efforts, with some of the following results:

  • By 2015, energy consumption from corporate estate had been reduced by 35%
  • The council's Carbon Management Plan target - to reduce emissions by 20% by 2017 - was achieved
  • Since 2013/14, energy consumption from street lights has been reduced by 36% thanks to part-night lighting, dimming and the use of LEDs for new and replacement units. During this period carbon emissions have more than halved despite a growth in the number of street lights as new developments are built. 
  • Thanks to sustained investment in renewables over time, in 2019/20 the council generated 4747 MWh from renewable sources; 7% from solar PV and 93% from biomass. 

The new Climate Strategy will build on previous work but also acknowledges the wealth of recent science and knowledge about impacts and solutions. 

Where we are now?

In accordance with the international Greenhouse Gas Protocol (opens new window), emissions are categorised into 'scopes' depending on how much control an organisation has over them. Table 7.1 sets out a simplified explanation of the scopes.

Table 7.1 Scopes and influence of carbon emissions


Lever of influence



1Direct controlCarbon emissions from council sources that directly burn fossil fuels, such as gas boilers and combustion enginesHeating of council owned and managed assets, e.g., offices and leisure centres; Mileage by council fleet
2Direct controlCarbon emissions from the council's electricity usagePower for council owned assets, e.g. offices, leisure centres and street lights
3Indirect controlCarbon emissions from sources that the council does not directly control, but over which it has some responsibility and influenceBusiness mileage by staff
Council housing stock and third party occupied buildings
Supply chains
Community and VC schools
Waste management Staff commuter journeys
Wider county emissionsRegulatory role.
Enabling, engaging, partnership working, leadership and demonstration.
Carbon emissions that are outside of the council's control. Some may be influenced through council regulatory role, e.g. taxi licensing or planning policy.Emissions from new development.
Emissions from residents
Emissions from businesses
Emissions from other institutions including VA schools and academies

Analysis of Wiltshire Council's scope 1 and 2 emissions in Figure 7.18 shows corporate estate and leisure centres together accounting for 64% of emissions in 2019/20, street lights 30% and council fleet 6%. There is currently a £12m programme to convert street lights across Wiltshire to LEDs. The 42,000 new units are projected to reduce energy consumption by 67% by 2022/23 compared with the 2013/14 baseline.

More than half of the council's energy consumption in 2019/20 was for electricity use in buildings and street lights. These emissions will be recorded as zero from 2020/21 as the electricity is now purchased through a green tariff and comes from 100% renewable sources.

While the ultimate concern is reduction of carbon emissions (which a green tariff allows us to achieve) we also need to look at accounting for energy savings, alongside emissions reductions and cost savings. This would reflect the carbon hierarchy and ensure that we are 'eliminating' and 'reducing' emissions before 'substituting' (with renewables).

The baseline for measuring progress will be the first year Wiltshire Council was created, i.e. financial year 2009/10.  However, consistent and comparable data is currently available from 2014/15 which was the point when schools were no longer included in the council's carbon footprint.

Significant progress has been made towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030: 

  • In the financial year 2019/20, Wiltshire Council's carbon footprint was 11,641 tCO2, which is half the emissions of 2014/15. 
  • Projected emissions for 2020/21 are approx. 4,800 tCO2e;
  • This means that since Wiltshire Council declared a climate emergency, emissions will have reduced from 14,864 t in 2018/19 to 4,800t in 2020/21 - a 68% decrease.

This is due to a range of measures, such as the green tariff which counts as zero carbon electricity for corporate estate and street lights, and on-going investment in energy efficiency.  Our £5.2m corporate carbon reduction programme will focus on a range of measures, including decarbonising heat in buildings, installing PV and heat pumps. 

What does a climate resilient and carbon neutral council look like?

In July 2019 Wiltshire Council committed to becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030.  This means that all emissions within our direct control (Scopes 1 and 2) will come down to net zero. The goal by 2030 is for the council to have all its fleet running on alternatives to fossil fuels, all corporate estate to have decarbonised heating systems and use only renewable power for all its electricity needs.  If there are any residual carbon emissions, these will be offset.

Emissions from our outsourced operations or supply chains (Scope 3) are more complex. More understanding of these emissions is needed, and the council will need to develop a target that is evidence-based and aligns with Wiltshire's carbon budgets.

Wiltshire Council has an up to date Climate Change Adaptation Plan and measures have been put in place to ensure that the council is resilient to changes in the climate, for example all service areas understand how climate change could affect them and have plans in place to adapt to or be prepared for extremes in weather, flood risk, and overheating. 

What will make this happen?

We already have data that will help us to focus on the key areas for carbon reductions. 

Even though our Scope 2 emissions are decarbonised through a green energy tariff, we will still need to work to improve energy efficiency across the board in alignment with the carbon hierarchy. This will be done through our ongoing programme to address energy use from street lighting and an updated Carbon Management Plan will be developed for all areas and will help to prioritise actions and identify where further investment is required.

We will need to use systems to help us monitor carbon reductions towards our goal, and link this into a cyclical review process.

Governance within the council will need to integrate carbon reduction and climate resilience into everything it does. Decision-making and strategic plans and processes need to include climate considerations at all stages.

This is something we would also expect to see at other levels of government, so that our work is supported and not hampered by tensions between different policy areas. National government policy must support the role of local authorities in their climate work and fund decarbonisation projects.

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