Energy and Climate Change CommitteeMemorandum submitted by the West Sussex Environment and Climate Change Board

1. Executive Summary

1.1 In this response to the Committee's call for written evidence, the West Sussex Environment and Climate Change Board (ECCB) makes the following points:

1.1.1 The ECCB partnership has developed one of the first consumption-based local carbon budgets at the County level.

1.1.2 Emissions are greater when measured using a consumption-based approach rather than a production-based approach. The consumption-based carbon footprint of West Sussex residents is almost double that suggested by the production-based data.

1.1.3 The consumption-based measure has made it easier to understand the sources of emissions and hence for us to prioritise actions.

1.1.4 The measure has provided a more complete story regarding emissions that is making it easier to link these to the behaviours that people need to address.

1.1.5 The consumption-based measure is fairer than a production-based measure because it gives us responsibility for all of our emissions including any emissions occurring elsewhere in the world as a result of consumption.

2. About the Environment and Climate Change Board

2.1 The West Sussex Environment and Climate Change Board (ECCB) was set up in 2010 to ensure that issues related to these agendas are given the highest priority in the County. Board members are drawn from senior management or cabinet level across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

2.2 The Board brings together significant organisations from all sectors to ensure that shared environment, sustainability and climate change objectives and priorities are fully understood, effectively communicated and embedded in the development and delivery of proposals and strategy across the County. We are fortunate in being able to draw on the broad range of knowledge and expertise of the Board members to inform our views. The current chairman of the Board is Professor Bob Allison, Professor of Geography and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex.

2.3 The ECCB aims to support people in West Sussex to reduce their emissions because changing residents’ use of energy at home, work and on the move is critical for reducing the UK’s overall emissions contributing to climate change. In order to achieve this aim, the ECCB has developed an action plan for the county of West Sussex to meet and identify environmental challenges and opportunities brought about by a changing climate. This action plan establishes a carbon budget for the County and West Sussex is one of the first Counties in the UK to set itself a carbon budget. The action plan is supported by all Board members and a wide group of stakeholders.

3. How do assessments of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions differ when measured on a consumption rather than a production basis?

3.1 West Sussex County Council recently completed a residents’ consumption-based carbon footprint, incorporating emissions from both production and consumption activities within the County.[1] It shows that the carbon footprint of West Sussex residents is almost double that suggested by the production-based emissions data provided by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.[2]

3.2 This footprint has enabled us to develop a consumption-based local carbon budget for West Sussex that has been incorporated into an action plan specifying a programme, to reduce emissions. The consumption-based footprint has ensured that this programme is more accurate in the allocation of emissions sources.

4. What are the benefits and disadvantages associated with taking a consumption-based rather than production-based approach to greenhouse gas emissions accounting?

4.1 We have found that one of the greatest advantages of using a consumption-based approach to greenhouse gas emissions accounting, rather than a production-based approach, is that it has given us a more complete story regarding the sources of emissions. For example, not only is the energy used by residents in West Sussex for heating, cooking and lighting in the home measured, but also the energy used to produce the food and goods consumed by residents. This level of detail is going to be really important to enable us to make such data, and thus our action plan, relevant to residents and easier to communicate.

4.2 The consumption-based carbon footprint has provided the sort of information that we can use to help residents to easily understand the way that their behaviour affects the footprint and what they can do to reduce their emissions. This is important to be able to do because research undertaken by Defra shows that whilst most people say they are willing to do a bit more to help the environment, about a quarter of people disagree that their lifestyle contributes to climate change.[3]

4.3 A consumption-based carbon footprint such as that produced for West Sussex provides an approach that could be described as fair because it includes not only direct emissions from buildings, energy and transport, but also all of the embodied CO2 in goods, food and materials used by the residents of West Sussex. This includes the impact of the supply chains of products and services reaching households in the County, including any emissions occurring elsewhere in the world as a result of these.

4.4 If we do not make an effort to reduce consumption, as well as production, emissions then any reduction in emissions brought about by improvements in efficiencies and distribution may well be exceeded by continued consumption.

October 2011

References

[1] M. Berners-Lee (2011). A Local Carbon Budget for West Sussex: Managing greenhouse gas emissions from consumption by residents, industries and the County Council.

[2] Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2009. Local and regional CO2 emissions estimates for 2005-2009 – Full dataset.

[3] Defra (2007; 2009). Survey of Attitudes and Beliefs towards the Environment.

Prepared 17th April 2012