Should urban and rural local authorities have the same CO2 reduction target?

Following on from my Blog entry ‘Setting carbon reduction targets – What does 34% mean for housing, workplaces and transport’, this blog adds to the discussion around the suitability of different Local Authorities to uniform target setting, I’ll be asking the question: Should Local Authorities with different types of carbon emission reducing potentials, aim for the same reduction target?

The idea for this blog came about from modelling carbon scenarios for local authorities in the UK. We have found increasingly that modelling the LCTP onto rural authorities based on a scaling factor derived from local and national resource potential has resulted in less action needing to be taken in rural authorities than from the same process applied to urban authorities. The results of several gap analyses we have undertaken has shown that on the whole, rural authorities exceed the national targets whilst more urban authorities fall short of the same target.

The following table shows what I see as the Urban, Rural, and Shared Strengths for implementation of National Policy.

District Heating Potential – The DECC methodology for District Heating potential uses a figure of 3000kW of heating per square kilometre to determine if an area has district heating potential. This criteria means that urban environments have much more application for this technology.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) – This is largely linked to district heating potential but its application is also suitable for single buildings such as hospitals or leisure centres. CHP can be gas or biomass fuelled. Currently there is less suitability for biomass in urban environments because of fuel storage and air quality issues.

Wind Resource – If modelling onshore renewables locally, rather than including them in the decarbonisation of the national grid, there is much more resource for wind in more rural authorities.

Virgin Biomass Resource – Non waste product biomass such as straw or short rotation Coppice is more abundant in rural authorities.
Ground Source Heat Pumps – Due to space constraints in cities, the potential for ground source heat pumps are greater in less dense rural areas.

Biomass Boilers – In part due to space constraints, part due to increased suitability for off gas network properties, a more dispersed effect on air quality and location closer to the source; Biomass boilers have more potential in rural authorities.

Solar Photovoltaic – The DECC methodology for estimating solar photovoltaic potential shows higher suitability rates for houses compared with flats.

Solar Thermal – Similar to Solar Photovoltaics, there is more suitability for domestic hot water and solar thermal air heating with housing rather than flats and terraces.

Waste Stream Biomass – The potential for this is more linked to a per capita basis, but perhaps there is still more potential in rural areas due to exported sewage processing and factory waste like abattoirs. I am uncertain on this point. I have listed this under shared strength for the moment.

Decarbonisation of the National Grid – Assuming that Electricity usage is evenly distributed per capita between rural and urban centres, the savings from decarbonisation of the grid should be even across the board.

Access to funding and larger governance – Economies of scale are beneficial in running projects and programs. We often see smaller rural authorities tackling large portfolios with limited resources whereas city authorities have the luxury of breaking roles into multiple specific roles. This means that larger governance is more able to access funding because they have the capacity to do so. It is also the case that some EU funding is looking for large projects which smaller rural authorities would need to team up to access.

I think target setting is complicated and affected by many factors.

It seems to me that it would make sense for more governance in the places where more carbon saving resource exists. This would mean more money per capita spent in rural settings where our modelling shows that the LCTP arguably more potent.
Should Local Authorities with different types of carbon emission reducing potentials, aim for the same reduction target? I would say ‘’yes’’. Local Authorities should first undergo an analysis of what the national Climate Change Act targets mean in their area by sector. This in turn should align through the LCTP with local resource potentials.

I invite responses to anything that I have written here – feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

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