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County Durham's carbon footprint


Information about carbon emissions for the whole of County Durham.

For carbon emissions from the Council's buildings and operations, see The council's carbon footprint.

Carbon emissions from the whole county are collected and reported by central government on an annual basis. This process takes time, so new figures are published about 18 months after the end of the year. The data can be downloaded at Gov.uk: Emissions of carbon dioxide for Local Authority areas.

How we are doing

Durham County Council has set a target of the County becoming Carbon Neutral by 2050. This means that the carbon emissions must fall, and those that are not able to be removed are offset by other actions such as tree planting.

By the end of 2018, the County's emissions were 52.6% lower than in the baseline year of 1990.

Changes in CO2 emissions

The bar chart above shows County Durham's total carbon emissions in 1990 and annually from 2005 to 2018. Emissions in 1990 were 4,697 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide, and this reduces steadily to 2,225 thousand tonnes in 2018. The bars are divided into three colours, showing the proportion of emission from Transport, Domestic, and Industry. In 2018 these three sectors have approximately equal share of the emissions. Over the years, emissions from transport have not changed very much, domestic emissions have reduced a little, and industrial emissions have reduced a lot.

The graph shows that the majority of carbon reduction has occurred in the Industry and Commercial Sector, while the Transport Sector has hardly changed. If we are to meet our goal of being Carbon Neutral by 2050, there must be greater collective progress across all sectors.

Where these emissions come from

Everything we do has an effect on the environment we live in; from heating and lighting our homes to manufacturing goods, scientific research, travel and everything in between. All of our individual actions are responsible for emitting harmful greenhouse gases which together produce a significant overall carbon footprint.

In all of our personal lives we generate a carbon footprint by the decisions we make, such as how we heat and power our homes, what food we buy, what we spend our money on, and how we travel. Choosing the low carbon option can make a big difference in the long term.

County Durham receives its carbon footprint data from central Government as ktCO2, thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The scope of this footprint includes:

  • All activities carried out in County Durham
  • Electricity purchased from the national grid
  • Gas purchased through the gas network
  • Other heating fuels such as oil or biomass
  • Land use such as farming or forestry
  • Vehicle fuels including petrol and diesel
  • Public and private transport
  • Homes, factories, schools, offices, farms, shops, hospitals, and any other buildings.

 The footprint excludes:

  • Road traffic passing through on the A1
  • Rail traffic on the national rail network

Carbon offsetting

Our pledge for County Durham to become Carbon Neutral by 2050 means that, as well as reducing our carbon footprint by stopping emissions being produced, we can work to 'offset' the carbon emissions that we haven't yet stopped. Offsetting emissions means working to remove carbon from the atmosphere (e.g. by planting trees) or to remove the need for someone else to produce carbon emissions (e.g. by exporting renewably generated electricity to the grid).

As a Council, in addition to reducing our own carbon footprint, we are working to help the rest of County Durham do the same by generating renewable electricity from solar panels and hydroelectricity. Not all of this renewable generation is used by us in our buildings and operations. The portion of this renewable electricity which is exported to the grid does not affect our own carbon footprint, so will not help us reach our own carbon reduction targets. It can, however, be considered as an offsetting action to help the County reach Carbon Neutrality.

Carbon Offsetting actions that the Council takes will therefore be considered as part of our work toward making the County Carbon Neutral, rather than tackling the Council's footprint.

The following graph shows how much renewable electricity we have exported to the grid over the last five years. Some of these figures are estimated as some smaller solar arrays do not require export metering.

Carbon saved by export of renewable electricity per year

The above bar chart showing the amount of emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent that were avoided through Durham County Council's export of renewably generated electricity in the last five financial years. 2015/16: 212 tonnes, 2016/17: 190 tonnes, 2017/18: 231 tonnes, 2018/19 182 tonnes, 2019/20, 145 tonnes.

From April 2020, the electricity purchased by Durham County Council from the national grid will be "100% renewable". This does not mean that our electricity consumption no longer has a carbon footprint. The electricity that we receive through the grid is not really any different, but we are using our purchasing power to support renewable technologies and discourage carbon intensive electricity generation.

The carbon footprint of our purchased electricity is still the national grid average carbon footprint for reporting purposes, but we can consider that we offset this through this support for renewable generation.

As our offsetting actions increase, this page will show them subtracting carbon emissions from the County's total as we work toward carbon neutrality.

Contact us
Sustainability Carbon and Climate Change
03000 265 545
Our address is:
  • 5th Floor
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UQ
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