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Carbon Scenario Tool Pathfinder project

Funded by Scottish Cities Alliance.

The Carbon Scenario Tool (CST) is designed to help local authorities understand their whole area carbon footprint and the impact of actions taken to reduce it.

Carbon Scenario Tool Pathfinder project logo

The Carbon Scenario Tool (CST) is designed to help local authorities understand their whole area carbon footprint and the impact of actions taken to reduce it.

The tool has been developed in partnership with a range of organisations and individuals; this pathfinder project is aimed at understanding how an online version of the tool could be funded and developed to meet the requirements of the net zero transition in Scotland.

What problem is the Carbon Scenario Tool looking to solve?

Increasingly, cities and local authorities are looking at setting net zero targets for wider area emissions; covering not only their own operational emissions resulting from Council buildings, fleet, and schools but also all direct and indirect energy emissions from activities within the geographical boundary. This widening of the target boundary massively increases both the quantity of emissions to be reduced and the complexity of the system by introducing multiple problem owners; both public and private. However, it also better reflects the influence of place-based decisions and opens up the opportunity for local government to work in partnership with citizens and businesses located in their area.

The public sector has significant experience in developing and implementing carbon reduction projects in their own estate; working out the costs and benefits, both in terms of money and carbon. However, projects at the area-wide level are frequently more complex, with the potential to impact on multiple different emission sources. In addition, cities are not static ecosystems; they continue to evolve and develop with new housing, changing businesses and evolving transport needs. Projects to tackle climate change through reducing carbon emissions can also impact on other key sustainability objectives, both positively but also potentially negatively.

How does the CST support public sector decision-making?

The CST has been developed as an early stage modelling environment for any project that will impact on energy use, transport or green space within the boundary; it is designed to take minimal information about location, size and scale and apply local and national benchmarks and produce an initial picture of the impact that a project might produce, including a sustainability dashboard. Populating the CST with multiple projects also enables production of scenarios to check probable rate of progress against targets. The CST can be used to model both carbon reduction activities and projects that are likely to add emissions to the area-wide footprint.

What is the pathfinder project trying to achieve?

The CST was produced by ECCI in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council to help them understand the emissions baseline, forecast the whole city footprint going forward and carbon cost major planned and live projects within the City. The CST is currently being used by the Council to help support implementation of the net zero by 2030 target by making the probable carbon and sustainability impact of projects and plans apparent much earlier in the decision-making process.

The Scottish Government is providing support to this pathfinder project from its Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) programme. The project will seek to align the CST with the evolving LHEES methodology, and other relevant tools and approaches, to ensure cities have a consistent and compatible suite of tools to understand and address city emissions.

The aims of the pathfinder project are to:

  1. capture the requirements of Scottish Cities Alliance members, for a tool to help plan and implement programmes against net zero area wide targets
  2. appraise the capability of current existing solutions against these requirements and map their roles in area-based strategy setting and programme decision making
  3. understand the current capability and capacity of the pilot local authorities to use the tool and facilitate better decision-making
  4. understand and capture the requirements for successful adoption and implementation within the pilot local authorities
  5. present an option appraisal for the development and ongoing support of a specialised solution

Therefore, through this project, we expect to help the Scottish Cities Alliance to agree a clear and consistent set of requirements for using low-resolution modelling on project climate impact to inform decision-making and support achievement of net zero targets. We will also gain a clearer picture of the critical dependencies for wider deployment and a functional model for development and funding such a tool.