Devon’s Carbon Footprint

Each year the University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy and Environment calculates Devon’s carbon footprint. This measures the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere by activities within Devon, Plymouth and Torbay’s boundaries. The calculation relies on national datasets that are published after the emissions have occurred. The latest available carbon footprint is for 2019.

7.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent

2019 Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint includes six of the seven greenhouse gases covered by the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol. These are:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Each gas traps a different amount of heat in the atmosphere and so their effect on global warming varies. Following common practice, this carbon footprint converts the effect of each gas on global warming into carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same effect on global warming. This makes it easier to compare the impact of different activities on the climate emergency.

Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3), the seventh gas included in the Kyoto Protocol, is not included in the carbon footprint because it is primarily used in the manufacture of liquid crystal displays which is not a significant industry in Devon.

Stationary Sources

Residential Buildings

This sub-sector includes the emissions created from using electricity and fossil fuels to heat and power our homes.

Commercial and Institutional Facilities

This sub-sector includes the emissions created from using electricity and fossil fuels in buildings used for business purposes and by the public sector. It excludes manufacturing and industrial premises.

Manufacturing Industries and Construction

This sub-sector covers the emissions created from using electricity and fossil fuels in buildings used for manufacturing and by large industry.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Activities

This sub-sector covers the emissions created from using fossil fuels in machinery used by the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.

Industrial Processes and Product Use

This sector includes direct emissions to the atmosphere from the production and use of mineral products (e.g. cement), chemicals, metals, lubricants and fluorinated gases.


On-Road Transportation

This sub-sector covers the emissions created from using fossil fuels in vehicles you would expect to see on the road – motorbikes, cars, vans, buses, coaches and lorries.


This sub-sector covers the emissions created from using fossil fuels to power trains, including heritage railways.

Aviation and Marine

Limited data are available on aviation and marine transport activity for the area and there is no agreed standard way of calculating emissions from these sub-sectors. Nonetheless estimates have been made, but the uncertainty in the data is too high to include in the carbon footprint.

It is estimated that flight emissions associated with Exeter Airport are 173,000 tonnes CO2e, which is 2.6% of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay’s total territorial emissions.

Emissions from fishing vessels are 23,000 tonnes CO2e, which is 0.3% of the area’s total territorial emissions. Data for non-fishing vessels is extremely limited. No useful information is available on commercial shipping. Whilst the number of recreational boats far exceed the fishing fleet, usage hours, and hence their emissions, are likely to be low. Finally, the number of registered passenger boats is very small and therefore they will contribute a very small amount to total emissions.


This sector covers the emissions created from:

  • The biological treatment of waste (composting and biogas plants)
  • Waste incineration, including energy-from-waste facilities
  • Solid waste disposal, including landfill sites
  • Wastewater treatment

Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use

This sector includes the emissions from:

  • Livestock – the gases produced from the digestion of food by ruminants such as sheep and cattle
  • The management of manures
  • The application of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and magnesium fertilizers to land
  • The change in how land is used. For example from farm land to a housing development. Or from pasture to woodland. This sub-category is often negative because the countryside is becoming better managed to absorb carbon dioxide.

Activities taking place within Devon can generate emissions that occur inside the area as well as outside the area’s boundary. To distinguish among them, the carbon footprint groups emissions into three categories based on where they occur: scope 1, scope 2 or scope 3 emissions.

Scope 1Scope 2Scope 3
Emissions from sources located within the area.

Scope 1 emissions may also be termed “territorial” or “production” emissions because they are produced within the territory.
Emissions occurring as a result of the use of grid-supplied electricity. Some of these emissions will occur within the area from power stations generating electricity in Devon, and some emissions will occur outside of Devon because Devon is also supplied with electricity from power stations in other parts of the UK and abroad.All other GHG emissions that occur outside the area as a result of activities taking places within the city boundary. In this carbon footprint Scope 3 emissions are limited to those associated with the transmission and distribution of electricity.

The carbon footprint has been produced following the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

The full methodology from the University of Exeter is available for download. The methodology is refined each year to make the carbon footprint more accurate and is then applied to the historical data so that all years are comparable.

Area Emissions

In 2019, Devon’s emissions were 7.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This is a 2.6% drop on 2018 levels and an 18% reduction since 2010. The Devon Carbon Plan has set a target for a 50% reduction by 2030 from 2010 levels and net-zero by 2050 at the latest.

Chart showing Devon's carbon footprint from 2008 to 2019
Legend showing the sectors of Devon's carbon footprint
YearEmissions (t CO2e)

Emissions by Sector (2019)

SectorEmissions (t CO2e)
Industrial Processes and Product Use190,674
Land Use (including Agriculture and Forestry)1,255,576

Emissions by Local Authority

Carbon footprint of each local authority area in 2019

Local AuthorityEmissions (t CO2e)% of Devon’s Emissions
East Devon962,25913%
Mid Devon871,92912%
North Devon761,03910%
South Hams818,14011%
West Devon603,0788%
Devon County Council Area6,065,12180%
Total Devon Emissions7,574,308

Download the Data

Carbon Footprint Summary from 2008 to 2019

Detailed Carbon Footprint by Year

Consumption Emissions

International trade means that many of the emissions associated with Devon’s citizens’ day-to-day lives are not emitted within Devon itself but instead occur overseas. For example, purchasing a mobile phone causes 55 kilograms of CO2e emissions from the minerals extraction, manufacturing, distribution and sale in the UK – but only the emissions associated with the distribution and resale in Devon appear in the carbon footprint described above. These overseas emissions are referred to as ‘consumption emissions’ and they are an additional part of the Scope 3 category.

Monitoring consumption emissions from overseas that are attributable to Devon can currently only be done by apportioning the UK national estimates of consumption emissions to Devon using a factor such as Gross Value Added – a measure of the performance of the economy. On this basis, the 2017 consumption emissions arising overseas that are attributable to our consumption habits in Devon were 4.7 million tonnes COe, which, when combined with the carbon footprint calculated above, accounts for 38% of Devon’s total GHG emissions.

Consumption emissions are included in the Devon Climate Emergency commitment to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050 at the latest.