Net Zero Ambitions
5.1 Devon’s Net-Zero Target
The Devon Climate Emergency partners are committed to achieving rapid and fair emissions reductions for Devon in the next 10 years of at least a 50% reduction in production and consumption emissions by 2030 below 2010 levels. The partners acknowledge there is a limit to the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted globally if dangerous climate change is to be avoided.
Partners will use their responsibilities and influencing opportunities as community leaders to help Devon’s diverse communities, business sectors and environments as a whole achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible and by 2050 at the latest, following the national ambition. The Plan is frontloaded with impactful actions to support the partners that have set earlier net-zero targets for their areas. Progress towards achieving the Plan’s targets will be reviewed regularly so that the targets can be enhanced where delivery is better than expected, or so the Plan can be revised where emissions reductions are not moving at the required pace.
The Plan will ensure that preferred solutions for local carbon offsetting are in place by 2030 to enable individuals, organisations and local areas to net-off to zero their residual emissions ahead of the national timetable where this is desired. Carbon offsetting must only be used for emissions that are not viable to avoid.
Prominent policy scenarios for achieving net-zero emissions in the UK, such as those produced by the Climate Change Committee (CCC)1 and The Centre for Alternative Technology2 only address production emissions and so this commitment from local partners is ambitious. If UK’s (including Devon’s) production emissions are reduced to net-zero and UK trading partners reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, then the CCC estimates that consumption emissions would be around 90% below 1990 levels in 2050.3 This highlights the importance of organisations and individuals in Devon reducing, reusing, sharing and recycling goods and using their purchasing power to improve environmental practices in Devon and overseas if the net-zero target is to be met (discussed further in the Economy and Resources section, of this Plan).
5.2 Carbon Budgets
Carbon budgets (Table 5.1) for production emissions have been developed for Devon for five-year periods between now and 2050 based on the CCC’s Further Ambition scenario. These budgets state a maximum amount of carbon dioxide equivalent that can be emitted within each five-year period. The purpose of using carbon budgets rather than annual targets is to allow for the effects of fluctuations in emissions due to factors such as short-term changes in economic activity or particularly cold winters.
Actual production emissions in 2018 and 2019 (latest data available) totals 15,330kt CO2e.4 This means the average annual emissions between 2020 and 2022 need to be 6,255kt not to exceed the budget.
Figure 5.2 shows the anticipated trajectory for the reduction of Devon’s production greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions to 2050. Most of the savings come from the Power, Buildings and Transport sectors. By 2050 Devon’s net emissions are projected to be -0.3Mt CO2e.
5.3 Achieving Net-Zero Sooner
Bringing the latest date forward from 2050 to achieve net-zero ahead of the national timetable would be challenging and more costly.
Many policy aspects relevant to reducing GHG emissions and their associated funding are controlled nationally, such as energy, strategic transport, agricultural and waste policy and retrofitting buildings. Assuming the national target remains as 2050, for Devon to achieve net-zero sooner would require the emissions in Devon that result from activity over which there is little local control (such as whether somebody chooses to operate a petrol or diesel car rather than an electric alternative) to be offset using local schemes. But who will fund the offsetting? Devon’s emissions are all attributable to individuals and organisations operating in and visiting Devon, yet there is no mechanism to force these emitters to buy carbon offsets ahead of the national timetable. If such a policy was implemented, these emitters might move away from Devon or choose to visit other areas of the UK that do not require them to pay to offset their emissions.
However, challenges of achieving net-zero ahead of 2050 in Devon are less significant if the UK was to bring forward the national target. An interim target for the UK to achieve a 78% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2035 was set in 2021, but effective policy to deliver it has not yet been proposed.5 The Devon Climate Emergency partners strongly encourage national government to bring forward the net-zero carbon date for the UK, which Devon is ready to implement locally given the necessary national support.
Devon-based organisations are encouraged to join the partners in endorsing the Devon Climate Declaration and reduce their direct emissions to net-zero by 2030. Organisations can follow the government’s Environmental Reporting Guidelines to determine the scope of emissions to include in their commitments.
1 Climate Change Committee(2019) Net Zero –The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/
2 Centre for Alternative Technology (2019) Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency. Available at: https://www.cat.org.uk/info-resources/zero-carbon-britain/research-reports/zero-carbon-britain-rising-to-the-climate-emergency/
3 Climate Change Committee (2020) The Sixth Carbon Budget: The UK’s Pathto Net-Zero. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/The-Sixth-Carbon-Budget-The-UKs-path-to-Net-Zero.pdf
4 Mitchell A. et al. (2020) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report – Devon, Plymouth, Torbay 2018, 2019. Centre for Energy and Environment, University of Exeter. Available at: https://devonclimateemergency.org.uk/studies-and-data/devons-carbon-footprint/
5 Climate Change Committee (2022) Current programmes will not deliver net-zero. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2022/06/29/current-programmes-will-not-deliver-net-zero/