Sepa GHG emissions rise

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) increased in 2014/15 despite a reduction in emissions from travel and a fall in energy consumption, according to its latest data. 

The regulator has a target to reduce its GHGs by 42% by 2020, compared to a 2006/07 baseline. Its emissions of CO2e in 2014/15 were 3,819 tonnes, a rise of 2.7% compared to the previous year, according to the report

The agency cut its consumption of gas by 27.5% and oil by 4%, although electricity use increased by 0.4%. The changes were largely due to relocating staff at two sites into one new building in Stirling. This reduced its carbon footprint by 26%, the report states. 

Despite the move, Sepa’s overall CO2e emissions from buildings increased by 112.7 tonnes or 4.5%. It blamed the increase on a change in the factor used to convert electricity consumed into CO2e emissions. 

The conversion factor is set every year by the environment department (Defra) and normally does not vary significantly, but last year increased by 10.61%. Emissions would have declined by 2.95% in 2014/15 and would have fallen 14.4% down against the baseline, instead of only 9.5%, if the conversion factor had not been altered, Sepa said. 

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of Sepa, said: “I am frustrated that despite all of this good work our overall emissions rose as a result of circumstances beyond our control. I am confident however that the steps we are taking puts us on a clear long-term trajectory of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sepa met targets for reducing travel and transport emissions for the sixth consecutive year, according to the report. These fell by 1.3% during 2014/15, exceeding the agency’s target to maintain 2013/14 levels. The regulator also exceeded its waste targets and improved levels of recycling to 75%, a 3% increase on the previous year. 

The UK government released a report detailing performance against its greening government targets in December. Emissions from the government estate and UK-business related transport declined 22% in 2014/15 compared with 2009/10 levels. However, the target was a 25% reduction. 

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) accounted for 49% of the government’s entire GHG emissions last year, according to the report. Despite cutting emissions by 19% compared with 2013/14, the scale and complexity of the MoD’s estate and operations means that it is difficult to achieve significant further reductions, which affects the overall government total, the report states. If the MoD is excluded from the calculation, the government would have met its 25% target, it says. 

The environment department (Defra) cut its emissions by 25% in 2014/15, while the energy and climate changed achieved a 26% reduction. 

Other performance data includes:

  • The number of domestic flights taken by government officials in 2014/15 remained the same as in 2013/14, leaving the government two-percentage points short of its target of a 20% reduction compared with the 2009/10 baseline.
  • The amount of waste generated in 2014/15 remained the same as in 2013/14 levels, meaning the government missed its target to cut waste by 25% by three percentage points. It diverted 83% of its waste from landfill in 2014/15, up from 75% in 2013/14. 
  • Since 2009/10, water consumption across government departments has declined 11% . 

In their foreword to the report, Oliver Letwin, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and environment minister Rory Stewart, state: “While these headline achievements may fall slightly short of the targets set for 2014/15, the picture at department-level shows that many are meeting and exceeding targets, while others are recording valiant reductions in face of significant operational challenges.”

The government has saved £185 million in energy, waste and water costs in 2014/15 compared with 2009/10, the report states. The government is currently considering future arrangements for its greening government targets.


Catherine Early is a freelance journalist.

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