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3. Devon Now

3. Devon Now

3.1 Geography and Economy

Devon has distinctive qualities and characteristics that provide the context for planning for net-zero emissions.  Devon is largely rural in character, with rural areas accounting for 90% of its land area; it has over 200 miles of shoreline split between two separate coasts north and south, and it is the third largest of the English counties. However, Devon also has major urban centres, the three largest of which – Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter – account for almost half of its population.

Figure 1.6 – The DCE partnership covers the whole of ceremonial Devon including the unitary authority areas of Plymouth and Torbay.

Devon is also recognised for landscapes of national importance; 35% of Devon’s land area is within Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks together with five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are also two World Heritage Sites (the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape and Jurassic Coast) as well as the North Devon Biosphere Reserve and an International Dark Skies Reserve. 

The county’s biological and geological diversity is illustrated by the presence of over 200 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There are also over 2,100 County Wildlife Sites and over 360 County Geological Sites. However, Devon’s habitats have become increasingly fragmented and are vulnerable to development pressures and the effects of climate change. More information about the health of Devon’s environment is available in Natural Devon’s State of Environment Report

Figure 7 illustrates the Gross Value Added (GVA) economic profile for the Devon, Plymouth and Torbay area compared to that of the UK. Devon has a higher GVA percentage in agriculture, construction, real estate and the public sector but has a lower prominence of information and communication, financial and insurance activities and professional and administrative activities. 


Figure 1.7 – Composition of the Devon (top) and UK (bottom) economies by Gross Value Added

This diversity in geography and economic structure means that the challenges of reaching net-zero will vary between different parts of the County as well as between sectors of its economy. For example, a net-zero future will look different in Exeter compared to that of villages in Torridge or coastal towns in the South Hams. The challenges of decarbonisation vary and so do the opportunities, but all areas of Devon need to fully contribute, respecting their individual identities, to creating a resilient, net-zero carbon Devon where people and nature can thrive.

1 GVA is a measure of the increase in the value of the economy due to the production of goods and services.

3.2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Devon

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