Our carbon footprint
As part of our Dr Carbon initiative, we have made an estimate of our current carbon footprint. Please use these estimates with caution, since making any estimates of carbon budgets is extremely challenging and so they are likely to be lower bounds on our true footprint and have significant uncertainties. We are extremely grateful to the Sustainability Services function at the University for providing much of the data that underpins these estimates. As a whole, the University has been extremely successful in reducing it’s total carbon footprint by more than 40% from the 2008/9 baseline. In line with University policy, our carbon footprint on this page is estimated for scope 1 emissions and (where possible) our scope 2 and scope 3 emissions are also reported. All emissions are reported in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).
For per capita estimates we have chosen to count our academic and research staff and PhD students but not our taught students. For 2018/2019, we use a figure of 330 staff and PhD students. When comparing to estimates from 2007/8, we had 180 staff and PhD students, a growth of 80% in 11 years.
2018/2019 Carbon Footprint estimate
The figure above shows the estimate of our carbon footprint. In total, our estimated footprint is 1,117 tCO2e per year or 3.3 tCO2e per person per year. The University buys 100% certified green-tariff electricity but emissions from electricity use are reported using location-based (i.e. grid average) carbon factors. As a point of context, UK national per capita emissions for 2018 were 5.4 tCO2e per person per year.
A clear conclusion of the committee, from this analysis, is that reductions in our carbon footprint are necessary and that the most likely source of reductions in emissions is business travel.
Changes since 2007/8
Although the estimates made by the previous Dr Carbon committee were not performed using the same methodology, we found it useful to compare changes in emissions from a number of major sources between this previous estimate and our current footprint. The table below shows the comparison of both total and per capita emissions. Our carbon footprint from energy use has increased in proportion to our increased size as a department. Emissions from travel have increased significantly both in absolute and per capita terms.
|2007/8 total emissions
|2018/19 total emissions
|2007/8 per capita emissions
(tCO2e per person)
|2018/19 per capita emissions
(tCO2e per person)
|Current per capita emissions as a percentage of 2007/8
Some further analysis of our travel emissions, reveals that for 2018/19:
- 70% of our travel emissions are from non-European flights
- 4% are from business class flights
- 24% are from European or Domestic flights
- We collectively spent £141,724 on travel last year
This means that there is significant potential to reduce our carbon emissions through shifting to alternative low-carbon modes of transport for European and Domestic travel and by reduction in our non-European travel. It would also be advisable to avoid business and first class travel where possible.
Our best estimates are that members of staff and PhD students took 236 flights during 2018/19. Given our current accounting systems, it is not possible to unambiguously identify the traveler for each flight, but for the 120 flights where we know this is possible, there were 89 different travellers. In this group, 8 members of the department took 3 or more flights and 22 took 2 or more. As a point of context, in 2018 48% of the UK population took no flights and only 14% took 3 or more.
As a simple exercise, for these 120 flights and 89 travellers, we estimated the reduction in our total annual carbon footprint would change if all those who took multiple flights in a year:
- Reduced their travel by one flight (a reduction of around 20%)
- Halved their number of flights (a reduction of around 25%)
- Were limited to one flight per year (a reduction of around 30%)
Other sources of emissions
A significant part of research in Meteorology involves making use of high-performance computing facilities which also consume significant amounts of electricity. Technically, our emissions here are scope 3 (since these services are procured from other suppliers), but we found it useful to report them nonetheless. We have been able to make estimates of our use of the ARCHER facility but not our use of other facilities like the JASMIN service or the Met Office shared resource MonSOON.
ARCHER uses 100% carbon free energy, but in line with the location based reporting above, we report here our estimated footprint from ARCHER compute use. We have not been able to estimate the budget from storage, but this is ongoing. We estimate that Reading based research uses on average 6% of the ARCHER resource. ARCHER uses 1200kW of power so our usage is 72kW. Using a grid carbon footprint rate of 175 g/kWh, our annual emissions are estimated to be 110 tCO2e. Base on the table above, this is roughly equivalent to our emissions from Gas heating and would add an additional 10% to our overall carbon footprint.
Travel to campus
We have not yet attempted to estimate our emissions from commuting (scope 2 emissions), but the most recent University travel survey shows that for the University as a whole more than 70% of journeys to campus use carbon free modes of transport. It is also worth noting though, that the use of single-occupancy vehicles is much larger for staff (42.4%) than for students (8.0%). Total emissions from commuting across the University are 4334 tCO2e, 16% of total reported emissions. If modes of transport for Meteorology are similar to the University, and Meteorology accounts for around 7% of the University staff and PhD student workforce then a rough estimate of our carbon footprint from commuting is 303 tCO2e which would be a substantial part of our overall footprint.
In the future, Dr Carbon will do further work to assess the robustness of this estimate for Meteorology.