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Working from home partly responsible as public sector greenhouse gases reduce

Greenhouse gas production by the public sector fell during the pandemic as people worked from home (Joe Giddens/PA)
Greenhouse gas production by the public sector fell during the pandemic as people worked from home (Joe Giddens/PA)

Annual greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland’s public sector fell by 5.8% last year, though measures introduced due to the pandemic contributed to the decline.

The impact of staff working from home led to public sector bodies consuming less electricity, while the carbon intensity of the electricity grid reduced.

A Scottish Government report found that direct emissions, such as using gas to heat buildings and petrol-powered vehicles, increased by 1% in 2020/21 compared to the previous year.

This was partly due to 2020/21 being colder than the previous year.

The report said: “The consumption of grid electricity fell since 2019/20, representing 40% of the total drop in consumption since reporting began (2015/16).

“Such a significant annual change is no doubt attributable to the impact of pandemic measures, especially as staff numbers increased by 7.7% over the same period.”

It continued: “The most pronounced drop (in emissions since 2015/16) has been for electricity, 59%, however, the UK grid has decarbonised by 40% over the same period so emissions reduction due to active measures is potentially closer to 20%.

“A 17% reduction since last year is partly due to an average 9% reduction in the UK electricity grid carbon intensity and also impacts arising from pandemic safety measures with many staff working from home.

Scottish Green Party conference
Patrick Harvie has announced a new £100 million fund (Jane Barlow/PA)

“However, as detailed later in the report, real savings have been achieved through energy efficiency measures and renewables projects.”

As the statistics were released, Zero Carbon Buildings Minister Patrick Harvie announced a new £100 million fund to improve energy efficiency and install zero-carbon heat systems.

The Scottish Green minister said: “The ongoing cost of living crisis and energy security issues caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine make the case for pursuing our vision to improve energy efficiency across Scotland’s homes and buildings, and transition away from high-carbon heating systems, even more compelling.

“Our heat in buildings strategy sets our plans for more than one million homes and 50,000 non-domestic buildings to be running on low or zero carbon heating systems by 2030.”

Mr Harvie continued: “It is imperative that every sector across Scotland, including public bodies, takes action to meet our climate obligations.

“The latest analysis shows further positive steps being taken by the public sector, and this funding will help accelerate action in the crucial years ahead while also realising energy savings that can be reinvested into important public services.”