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Target your community's climate activity with the Impact Community Carbon Calculator 

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AUTHOR: KEITH HEMPSHALL, DIRECTOR OF LOCAL AND COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT AT THE CENTRE OF SUSTAINABLE ENERGY


Our experience is that all communities are different. It can sometimes be hard to know where to begin and what to prioritise when organising community action around local carbon emissions.

That’s why we’ve developed the Impact Community Carbon Calculator tool. It provides a good basis for understanding local emissions, can be used as an engagement tool and helps focus efforts on the big-emission areas. You can get started by simply searching for your local area.

“Impact” is an innovative carbon footprinting tool created by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and the University of Exeter. It’s completely free and provides easy-to-understand data about carbon emissions in local areas across England, Scotland and Wales, drawing from over 30 datasets to estimate the total emissions produced directly and indirectly from everyday activities in a local area.

Climate emergency planning

We know that many local councils are working on climate emergency plans and that carbon footprints are commonly commissioned for larger areas. Meanwhile, lots of people are already using personal carbon footprint tools available on the internet.

Impact provides data for the bit in the middle – smaller community areas. The tool offers data at parish, council and ward levels which can also be accessed by searching with a postcode. Anyone can look at the carbon footprint of their local area, but it is most useful when used by local councils or community groups who can influence change in their communities. Most local areas have developed their net-zero plans or are in the process of doing this.

The tool displays local emissions in categories including home heating, transport, food and diet, and waste disposal. A percentage is allocated to each, helping pinpoint which areas will benefit most from action to reduce emissions. Community leads can use this information to plan their climate activities to make the biggest difference.

Community engagement

Alongside the data, Impact provides an automated report for each local area. In these, you'll find useful guidance about how your emission information can be used in communities, with recommended ways to engage with people. Data on its own can sometimes be a bit bland, Impact helps by offering ways to put this data into context, making it easy to understand.

The comparison function allows a quick comparison of your communities' emissions against neighbouring areas and the national average. This helps highlight which areas to prioritise when planning ways to reduce emissions, and you can see where your community is doing well. For example, if you have high housing emissions, looking at ways to promote retrofit or educate your community about ways to save energy might be your starting point.

Impact in action

The comparison function was particularly eye-opening for Tatham Parish Council. When using the calculator, they realised that their housing emissions were four times higher than the national average. While shocking, this data allowed them to look into why this occurred and the best steps to take to reduce their emissions. To understand what caused the high emissions, the council sent each address in the area a home survey to complete, using the responses to develop a plan. Since then, they've created a special 'Carbon Committee' made up of councillors and enthusiastic locals to discuss issues and ideas, explore ways to take action and inspire the community to help.

In Itchen Valley, the council used their three highest emission areas (housing, travel and food and diet) to develop a series of articles in their local newspaper. These articles explained the importance of lowering emissions and offered practical advice to locals about how to do that for each category. They've continued to use their magazine to highlight other community actions and educate and encourage their community to do their bit in the climate emergency.

The Impact Community Carbon Calculator has benefitted many other communities, supporting them to take meaningful climate action.  Here are more stories about how Impact has shaped community activity.  

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