Setting and measuring Calderdale’s CO2 reduction target is just the first of many challenging but achievable steps to its accomplishment.

Calderdale’s target to reduce its CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions – the principal greenhouse gas responsible for man-made climate change – is related to the national target set by the Climate Change Act 2008. This requires a reduction of ‘at least 80%’ by 2050 in all the UK’s greenhouse gases from the level they were at in 1990.  In its work to implement the Act and achieve this target the government is advised by the independent and expert Committee on Climate Change, which each year publishes an annual progress report.  Britain’s climate change reduction process is acknowledged to be the best in the world.

The target set by Calderdale Council runs from 2005 (the baseline year) to 2020. It is consistent with the national target (and in other local areas) but detailed measurement of the CO2 emissions in individual local authority areas like Calderdale are only available from 2005.  Without these measurements, which are updated each year to show the progress (or lack of it!) in every area, we would not be able to chart our performance towards the 2020 target. Two measurements are available: firstly, all CO2 emissions for which Calderdale is responsible, including electricity generated elsewhere in the UK; and secondly CO2 emissions which can be influenced by actions taken in Calderdale.  They are produced by the Department for Energy & Climate Change

The Calderdale target is: to achieve a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 from a 2005 baseline.

From these figures we can find out the CO2 emissions that Calderdale could influence in 2005 and calculate what they need to reduce to by 2020. In 2005 they were 1.395 million tonnes (spreadsheet tab ‘Indicator dataset’, row 414 column U), so a 40% reduction by 2020 would be to 0.84 million (or 837,000) tonnes.

Thus far it’s reasonably clear, but now there are more complexities! Calderdale’s target was only set in 2012, which was already halfway through the 2005-20 implementation period, so in practice we only have available some 8 years to take action; and then reduction measures take time to plan and come into effect. In addition we only find out (from DECC) how well we are doing two years in arrears, which makes it more difficult to know whether we are making adequate annual progress towards our target.  The latest figures available show that in 2011 Calderdale’s CO2 emissions were 1.190 million tonnes or a reduction of 14.7% so far against the 2005 baseline. If they were to continue to decline at the same average rate until 2020 they would reach around 0.94 million tonnes or 32.6% below the baseline.

So, not completely sufficient but we’re heading in the right direction and from now on we can more systematically plan for faster progress. This is why carbon reduction and energy saving needs to be a priority for everyone, undertaken with determination and urgency.

But is it possible, and can we afford, to reduce our emissions by 40%? Where would you start and what measures would you prioritise? What would be the wider impacts on economic growth and employment in Calderdale? Would future energy bills actually be lower? The CEF strategy is underpinned by the pioneering study A Mini-Stern Review for Calderdale – the economics of low carbon development undertaken by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures at Leeds University, led by Professor Andy Gouldson who remains an adviser to the Panel. To find out the positive answers to all these questions download the executive summary of the study here. The main report for the entire Leeds City Region is here.