Estimating your current carbon footprint is an important step in identifying where emissions are coming from and deciding how best to tackle them. The IMPACT Community Carbon Calculator is a powerful and user-friendly new tool that allows you to do this at the parish level. Drawing on data from a wide array of sources, it gives you a visual representation of your community’s carbon footprint, helping you spot the areas where your community climate change activities can make the biggest difference. Unusually, it distinguishes between ‘territorial’ and ‘consumption’ estimates – two very different ways of measuring carbon footprints.
In this blog, Danny Lee from Petersfield Climate Action Network (PeCAN) explains how the tool works, and the interesting ways it can be used to focus attention on local emissions.
What is this tool?
IMPACT is a parish-level carbon emission estimator which gives parishes and small communities usable data on their carbon emissions that is easy to interpret and easy to share. You can try it out by clicking this link: https://impact-tool.org.uk/
Where has it come from?
The tool was developed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) as part of their Climate Emergency Support Programme, working jointly with the University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy & the Environment as part of their South West Environment and Climate Action Network.
Why is it interesting?
It provides a carbon emission footprint for a geographic area, combining dozens of data sets into a series of easy-to-use infographics. The tool allows you to select two footprints: a Territorial Footprint and Consumption Footprint.
Why two footprints?
The two footprints are calculated in entirely different ways so can give quite different results. The territorial approach is commonly used to calculate emissions at the national and local authority level, whereas the consumption approach is used for individual or household footprints. Being able to see both sets of results at the parish level is helpful as it raises interesting questions. The graphic below explains the distinction between the two approaches.
Petersfield as an example
The doughnut charts below show figures for Petersfield in Hampshire. The first one gives the breakdown of Consumption emissions per household, with the five main emissions sectors shown in different colours. The outer ring of the doughnut shows sub-sectors – so housing, for example, is broken down into different fuel types. With the online version you can click on the sub-sectors and see the individual numbers for gas, electricity, oil and LPG.
The second graph shows Territorial emissions per household. The pattern is very different; in this case, the total emissions figure is quite a bit lower (11.1 tonnes versus 18.8). These differences can be misleading, so it is important to understand where the numbers derive from before you use them.
Raw data is also available via the Downloads page on the IMPACT website, so you can dig down and do your own analysis.
How parishes compare
The tool allows a side-by-side comparison between different parishes. The comparisons can be revealing but need to be interpreted with care. Understanding the local geography and demographics is important. A rural area can have a considerably higher territorial footprint when measured per household, for example, compared to a densely populated area with a different make-up. The presence of major road, agriculture, and local industry also affect the numbers in a big way.
The comparisons show up important differences. The graph below shows how consumption emissions are far higher in wealthier areas than in poorer ones.
What difference has it made?
The IMPACT tool has been designed to help direct efforts to tackle the climate emergency. Petersfield Climate Change Action (PeCAN) network has used it to fact check sectors of high carbon emissions and dispel some misreported information (urban myths). We have used it to help identify a prioritised shopping list for action data sets/maps from QGIS, the free open-sourced Geographic Information System. It has also allowed us to understand the contribution of carbon emissions from major arterial road networks passing through our area which are not caused directly by residents.
What it does not do is lay out solutions or a decarbonisation pathway. Rather, it gently signposts thinking for action using well-grounded data and graphical presentations. The IMPACT team have done a brilliant job in creating a tool which could develop further into an even more powerful tool to inform Climate Emergency actions.
All we need now is a similar tool for the Biodiversity emergency. The two in tandem could then create a template for integrated action for both crises which is well overdue!
The IMPACT project team recognised that the tool is ‘work in progress’. An update is due in June 2021 that will allow users to download a report in pdf format. They are keen for users to forward suggestions for new features that they would like to see to the project team, as well as details of any errors they have spotted. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSE are actively fundraising for the future maintenance and development of the tool, as their grant from BEIS does not cover this. They are running a fundraiser, and could really use some support from SECA members https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/impact-the-community-carbon-calculator
Where can I find out more?
The IMPACT team at CSE have produced some excellent guidance notes on how to use the tool, and this helpful introductory video. There is also a detailed methodology paper explaining how the numbers are put together, and a comprehensive FAQ section.
Danny Lee is a Trustee of Trustee of Petersfield Climate Change Action (PeCAN). He can be contacted at: email@example.com or Facebook: @PetersfieldClimateActionNetwork