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The Carbon Neutral Challenge

Where Cornwall's carbon emissions come from
What is carbon neutral?
The 'tipping point'
Natural carbon absorption

IPCC Climate Change 2021 report

The IPPC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has published it's sixth assessment report.

Read the AR6 report on the IPCC website

In their Climate Change 2021 report, the IPCC concludes that:

  • there is still time to limit the worst effects of climate change
  • stabilising the climate will require the globe to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050
  • human activities have already caused around 1.1°C warming
  • the planet’s climate is warming faster than anything experienced
  • every part of our planet is already seeing multiple and increasing changes in their climate systems
  • global warming is very likely to reach 1.5°C by 2040
  • climate change is intensifying the water cycle affecting rainfall patterns
  • coastal areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century
  • further warming will amplify impacts on frozen regions
  • the ocean is warming and acidifying.

For urban areas, some aspects of climate change may be amplified.

View and download Cornwall Council's summary briefing paper of the IPCC report

The trend towards a hotter climate

The image below shows how the temperatures across England are already increasing year on year, setting a clear trend towards a hotter climate which will bring significant consequences.

Warming Stripes 1884 to 2018

The 'Warming Stripes' by Professor Ed Hawkins MBE show how global temperatures have increased between 1884 and 2018. The colour scale goes from 7.6°C (dark blue) to 10.8°C (dark red)

        Uk Temperatures since 1884 to 2018 depicted by blue and red stripes - a text description is at the bottom of this page

See footnote 'chart 1' at bottom of page for description of warming stripes

Imperial College London and the Grantham Institute have developed a set of Frequently Asked Questions which bring together expert knowledge on climate science, economics and politics, if you want to find out more about the climate crisis and possible solutions on a national and global scale.

Where Cornwall's carbon emissions come from

The diagram below shows where Cornwall's carbon emissions come from.

Our road transport and homes combined, make up 45% of total emissions and highlights how individual actions and choices have the potential to make a big impact.

We are committed to using our influence and working with others to enable more people to make positive changes to their lifestyle to drive carbon emissions down.

    Graphic showing Cornwall's carbon emissions by sector

See footnote 'chart 2' at bottom of page for description of carbon emissions chart

What is Carbon Neutral?

Becoming carbon neutral means taking out as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as we put into it. This is also known as 'Net Zero Carbon'.

Carbon Dioxide - Carbon Dioxide Absorption = 0

This can be achieved in two ways, by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide we are producing and by capturing the carbon dioxide we do produce so that it can't enter the atmosphere.

Becoming carbon neutral will bring us closer to a way of living which is based on balance and ensuring that our impact on the planet supports a positive future.

While some things about the way we live will change, we will always need a society which welcomes everyone and allows us all to thrive.

The 'Tipping Point'

A target of 2030, ahead of the UK Government's target of 2050, will give us our best chance of keeping global warming below 1.5°C.

This is the point at which the climate impacts we're already experiencing will go from bad to potentially catastrophic. We'll see natural systems cross danger points, triggering lasting changes and transforming life as we know it; extreme storms, heatwaves, mass loss of natural habitats and species.

        Image showing the 1.5 degrees C tipping Point and possible outcomes such as more storms and extreme weather, species extinctions, emergency of diseases in the UK like maleria and forced migration

Natural carbon absorption

Carbon can be absorbed through our use of land across Cornwall.

This can be from planting and maintaining, but also includes how our soil is looked after, and even seaweed farming.

The diagram below shows how carbon can be absorbed naturally.

Carbon dioxide absorbtion graphic

This is why projects such as the Forest for Cornwall are so important, and also why it's important to look after the natural environment and ensure we don't use peat based fertilisers.

The carbon emissions and net zero gap

The picture below shows a graph showing the scale of the challenge for Cornwall to get from 4 million tonnes of COdown to net zero.

The sharp trajectory needed to reach 2030 will require radical action, even 2050 will be challenging - but if we do nothing our carbon emissions will only continue to rise.

   Graph showing carbon targetsCarbon Targets - a text description is at the bottom of this page

See footnote 'chart 3' at bottom of page for description of journey to net zero chart

Currently we are absorbing 125 kilotonnes of carbon, meaning that there is a gap of 1,014 kilotonnes which we need to reduce by, if Cornwall is to become carbon neutral.

We can find ways to increase carbon absorption, for example through increasing the number of trees, hedges and wetlands, but there is no getting away from the fact that we need to drastically decrease our consumption and our emissions.

View and download Cornwall's pathways' to carbon neutral reportCornwall's Carbon Footprint

Cornwall's current carbon footprint is 4.1 million tonnes Co2e (2016 data year). This is almost 7 times our budget if we are to limit carbon dioxide to safe levels by 2050.

View Cornwall's Greenhouse Gas Inventory report 2008-2017

In 2019, when the council declared a climate emergency, emissions for Cornwall fell by 3% from the previous year, which falls significantly short of the annual reductions required for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. 

It is vital that all businesses, communities and the Council, work together to find a way that we can all reduce consumption and lower our carbon emissions.

Our calculations have taken into account the impact of the seasonal influx of tourists which account for around 13% of our total emissions.

View Cornwall's Emissions Inventory report for 2019

View Cornwall's Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2019
(produced by the University of Exeter)

Cornwall Council's Carbon Footprint

Cornwall Council is working towards becoming a Carbon Neutral Council.

The Council produced a baseline GHG carbon inventory in 2018. We will use the inventory as a baseline or starting point. The baseline will allow the Council to check progress as it works to become carbon neutral.

The Council will review the inventory annually. The reviews will allow us to check progress of the Climate Action Plan.

In 2021-22 Cornwall Council emitted 10,058 tCO2e (location based) representing a 24% drop in emissions respectively compared to the baseline year 2018/19.

It means we are on track to meeting our target for becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030. 

View Cornwall Council's Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2021/22

View Cornwall Council's Emissions Inventory report for 2021/22

Charts descriptions

Text descriptions of the charts on this page.

Chart 1

Chart Description - The blue bars illustrate cooler temperatures going from dark blue to light blue through to pink and the hottest red temperature. The leftmost column of colour represents the year 1884, the furthest right represents 2018. There is a clear trend apparent. In earlier years the blue bars are the most common. As we look to the right, the red bars become the norm - not the exception.

Chart 2

Chart description - the bar chart shows different sectors in Cornwall and the percentage of carbon they emit. Commercial and industrial buildings emit 22%, on-road transport 23%, Homes 22%, Agriculture 21%, Waste 5%, Industrial Processes 6%, Aviation 1.5%, rail transport 0.75% and marine navigation 0.75%

All figures relate to greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide; methane; nitrous oxide; hydrofluorocarbons; perfluorocarbons; sulphur hexafluoride) and are quoted in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

Chart 3

Chart description - the vertical axis (Y) of the chart goes from zero to four million tonnes of CO2. The horizontal axis (X) shows the years 2020 to 2055 running left to right. There are three lines on the chart; two green and one black. The first green line shows a steep curve downwards from 4 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020 down to net zero in 2030 - which is our target. The second green lines show a less steep curve from four million tonnes of CO2 in 2020 down to net zero in 2050 which is the government's target. The black line which represents the 'do nothing' scenario, shows a gradual rise from 4 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020 to nearly 5 million tonnes of CO2 in 2055.

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