Midlothian Council's carbon footprint to include home workers

Councils will remain responsible for their staff’s carbon footprint even when they work from home, under new checks introduced in annual reports on climate change.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 3:47 pm
Council HQ, Midlothian House in Dalkeith.

Midlothian Council’s statutory report to Scottish Ministers on its climate change progress over the last year, includes a look at the impact of around half its workers on the environment while based at home. It revealed that the local authority had been asked for the first time to factor in home workers.

However officers pointed out that while carbon emissions from home workers were being measured, the benefits of no longer having to travel to work and back were not being taken into account.

Midlothian Council’s annual Public Bodies Climate Change Duties submission showed carbon emissions were 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) – almost identical to 2019/20 emissions, However compared to 2014/15 when it was 23,500tCO2e, council officers said carbon efficiency in the county had “improved dramatically”. They pointed to the fact the population of the county had grown from 86,500 to 94,500 over the last seven years, emphasising the strides made in tackling carbon emissions.

Electricity use in council buildings fell by 24 percent during 2020/21 but was offset by an increase in the number of streetlight needing lit which used 12 percent more power and was attributed to new housing developments in the county, which is the fastest growing in Scotland.

Emission levels from the home workforce was estimated at around 575tCO2e.

The report which was presented to a virtual meeting of Midlothian Council’s cabinet for approval, said: “This is the first time organisations have been asked to provide an estimate of their employees’ emissions in the submission.

“It implies that, using this methodology at least, organisations remain responsible for the carbon footprint of their employees work activities, wherever they are located. It should be stated that such methodology does not factor in the emissions which have been avoided through employees not having to travel to and from work, which are likely to be substantial.”

The report found the carbon footprint per employee had reduced dramatically from 7tCO2e in 2014 to 4.2tCO2e in 2020/21 .

The report, which will be submitted to Scottish Government next month, was approved by cabinet.