Edinburgh Council reports record greenhouse gas emissions fall for the sixth year running

The City of Edinburgh Council greenhouse gas emissions have continued to fall for the sixth year running – helped by the upgrading of LED street lighting across the city, and a drop in fleet emissions.
City of Edinburgh Council's headquarters at Waverly Court.City of Edinburgh Council's headquarters at Waverly Court.
City of Edinburgh Council's headquarters at Waverly Court.

The findings, which have been released as part of the latest Public Bodies Climate Change Duties (PBCCD) report, reveal that council emissions have been cut by 11 per cent in the past financial year – supporting the council’s ambition of becoming a net zero organisation by 2030.

The reduction, which also includes emissions from Edinburgh Leisure, is mainly thanks to a fall in electricity consumption, achieved through lighting or other energy efficiency upgrades, property closures during the pandemic and greening of the electricity grid.

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The upgrade in LED street lighting across the city also contributed to a third of the drop in overall electricity use. A decrease in the use of the heavy vehicle fleet and a drop in business travel during the lockdown also helped emissions fall.

In 2020-21, emissions from buildings made up 66 per cent of the councils carbon footprint. Meanwhile, emissions from waste totalled nine per cent, fleet 10 per cent, business travel one per cent and other energy consumption, such as street and stair lighting, alarms and traffic signals made up 14 per cent.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “It’s fantastic to see our hard work paying off. It shows that major programmes of work to support a greener, net zero council by 2030, such as making Edinburgh’s street lighting more energy efficient, is having a real positive impact on the organisation and the city.”

He added: “While achieving an 11 per cent drop in emissions this year is a significant achievement that we’re looking to build on, we must not become complacent.

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"We know that 2020-21 was a unique year, and some of the changed to how we worked during the pandemic have contributed to this drop.

“As we transition back into the workplace over the coming months, we need to build on our progress to date and bank some of the progress of changes made during the last year.

"By continuing to make our buildings more energy efficient and encouraging colleagues to use more active and sustainable means of travel for work where possible we can recover from the pandemic in the greenest way possible and keep us on the track to net-zero by 2030.”

As well as reporting on the council’s organisational emissions, the PBCCD report also covers the action taken by the council to get ready for the unavoidable impacts of climate change – such as flooding and heatwaves.

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It highlights that there has been a large increase in adaptation and climate risk activity being embedded across council services, policies and plans – including the creation of the Edinburgh & Lothians Strategic Drainage Partnership to spot and reduce flood risk in the city and work to identify risks and protect Edinburgh’s World Heritage site, historic buildings and coastal communities.

It also highlights the council’s new sustainable procurement strategy, which was launched in March 2020. The new policy means that council procurement activity now contributes to its compliance with climate change duties.

Depute council leader, Cammy Day added: “The challenge we now face as a council is how we maintain and improve on these reductions in emissions – which is why I’m delighted to see the publication of our Council Emissions Reduction Plan.

“By calculating the emissions impact of all of our activity and providing a clear plan for how we can cut our footprint, we can continue to make progress and build on our successes to date, helping to deliver environmental benefits along with wider health, economic and wellbeing benefits for everyone who lives and works in Edinburgh.”