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A carbon budget for the Lake District
24th April 2012
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Off for a picnic with the kids this weekend, we stopped in Windermere to buy a few things. Outside the supermarket, next to an advert for half-price pies, was a newspaper billboard shouting “LAKES CLIMATE CHANGE PRAISE”. I’ve never seen my work on a billboard before. It made my day.

The ‘praise’ was from a Committee of MPs – the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. Last week they published a report into ‘Consumption-Based Emissions Reporting’, complimenting the Lake District, West Sussex and Manchester for their efforts in managing climate change at a local level.

I’ve been working with the Lake District to help it establish the first local ‘carbon budget’, introduced a couple of years ago. Like a financial budget, the aim is to find out how much carbon the Lake District is responsible for, and then reduce the carbon ‘spend’ year on year. Using this approach, and working with local businesses and communities, 14000 tonnes of carbon have been saved – often resulting in financial savings, too, from reduced energy bills, for example.

The budget, using a method developed by Small World Consulting, uses a consumption-based approach. In other words, it counts all the greenhouse gas emissions caused by consumption within the National Park – including food and drink, manufactured products, buildings and travel.

The consumption approach is significant, because it produces a much more rounded picture of emissions than the usual, production-based approach. If UK national emissions are measured this way, our carbon use is actually rising, not falling, due to the carbon ‘embedded’ in imports of goods manufactured overseas, as their report explains.

We’ve found another advantage of this approach. Putting together a comprehensive map of emissions helps to engage local businesses and communities. It’s a simple, meaningful way of explaining where the carbon comes from. We can tell hotels and guesthouses, for example, that serving local, seasonal food and drink is good for carbon as well as business. One village pub has taken the work a stage further, offering drinkers a carbon analysis of their pint, and pointing out that the microbrewery down the road is by far the most efficient beer.

We’ve been really pleased to see how the budget has been taken up and used, by local organisations as well as by those further afield. Since we began our work, other local areas including Manchester and West Sussex have followed suit, and there’s a lot of local media interest too, like this article from the local paper – and, of course, that billboard.

There’s lots of background and detail on our carbon budget here.

For more on the consumption-based approach, see the Committee’s report, and a useful blog by Warren Hatter, explaining its significance for local areas.

About author

Rebecca Willis

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