Willingham’s Carbon Footprint

At all levels of government there is much discussion about climate change and in particular about reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide, often shortened to carbon, is the most well-known greenhouse gas and largest contributor to climate change, but other greenhouse gases are nitrous oxide, methane and ozone, and these are often included under the term ‘carbon’.

The first step in any reduction is measuring exactly which activities produce carbon and how much, known as a carbon footprint, and a tool has recently been produced by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, together with Exeter University, that shows the carbon footprint at parish level. It can be found at https://impact-tool.org.uk/

The site consists of pie-charts showing two ways of measuring the footprint: (i) territorial – carbon that is produced directly from within our parish (e.g., industrial, commercial, domestic, agriculture, transport), or (ii) consumption – including all emissions from our consumption of manufactured goods, food, and transport activity, etc., regardless of where the emissions occur. Territorial is in general compiled by taking national data and cutting it down, while consumption is largely based on household and address-level data. In addition to the charts, the actual data can also be downloaded. It is hoped for the future that funding can be secured to allow the information to be updated.

There is also the option to compare our footprint with other parishes, or district or national averages. The website contains much useful background information regarding the data sources used, assumptions, and methodology for arriving at the numbers.

Though this is ‘broad-brush’ information, being non-interactive and only covering main impact areas, it is a useful starting point to look at ways of reducing the Willingham carbon footprint. While there are many measures being discussed at International, Central Government, County and District level, such as the SCDC Zero Carbon Communities initiative, there is much that we as a parish and as individuals can do. According to the UK Committee on Climate Change 2019 report, 62% of carbon savings we need to make now will need behavioural change to drive them, in whole or in part. Small changes in behaviour add up. As consumers we can create a demand for low or zero carbon alternatives that will send a signal to the market and companies will respond. And just reducing waste will have an effect.

The ‘Using the tool’ document on the website is particularly useful regarding next steps, and has a list of resources. We as a Parish Council will be looking at ways of reducing our own footprint (we have already secured a grant for changing the heating in the Ploughman Hall to a low-energy system, installed LEDs and use a green energy provider), and would like to encourage individual residents and families to do the same. There are many tools available to measure your footprint at household level such as https://cambridgecarbonfootprint.org/, carbonfootprint.com – Carbon Footprint Calculator and one from the WWF. These are much more detailed than the parish level one described here.

Willingham Action Group has also recently created a Sustainability sub-group which consists of a small number of passionate individuals looking at ways to improve the sustainability of the village.

We hope that this will be a two-way process so please let us know your thoughts on these issues and how we can work together to reduce the Willingham carbon footprint.

More about the Willingham footprint

“So, as the aphorism goes ‘All models are wrong, but some are useful’. We have tried hard to make these ones useful for you, but use them as a guide, not as a gospel.”

Having searched on ‘Willingham’ the charts show either a total for the parish or per household. Each category can be split into subcategories. Clicking on each segment gives brief info on what it is and how calculated.

Consumption – The largest sector is consumption of goods and services – 33% (18% purchase, 8% use of services, 7% other), followed by travel 26% (14% private transport, 9% flights, 3% public transport), food and diet 21% (11% meat and fish, 10% other), housing 19% (energy in homes – 13% gas, 5% electric, <1% oil), waste 1%

Territorial – Now housing (energy in homes) is the largest (40%), followed by 20% agriculture (14% livestock & crop-related, 4% fuel), 17% road transport, 14% aviation and 6% shipping (not helpful these are just national figure divided by population – ‘included to provide context’). Industrial and commercial are shown as zero which is not quite correct?

The differences between the two approaches are very clearly shown by a comparison with Swavesey – consumption is almost the same per household, but territorial is very different – Swavesey has a much larger road transport and industrial and commercial footprints, the former presumably due to the A14 about which they can do nothing.