Beyond Carbon

Information about our carbon emissions and what we are doing to reduce them.

Nearly all our council services emit carbon emissions, from street lighting to getting rid of waste, heating schools and care homes. We are committed to reducing these emissions and have an aspiration to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030, or as near to that date as possible.

Climate emergency

On 5 July 2022 our executive declared a climate emergency in North Yorkshire. You can read more about this in the meeting report and minute 35 of the Agenda for Executive on Tuesday, 5th July, 2022, 11.00am.

Since 2019 we have reduced our own carbon footprint significantly and continue to look for opportunities within our carbon reduction plan to meet our targets.

Climate change and devolution

The proposed York and North Yorkshire devolution deal includes £7 million worth of investment to enable York and North Yorkshire to drive green economic growth and work towards ambitions to be a carbon negative region. This investment is subject to the agreement of any submitted business case. Find out more about devolution for York and North Yorkshire.

Partnership climate change working

We continue to work with a broad range of stakeholders on climate change, including the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (YNYLEP).

The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership plans to become the UK’s first carbon negative region by 2040. It has adopted the York and North Yorkshire Routemap to Carbon Negative. The routemap provides an ambitious pathway for local authorities, businesses, charities, academia and communities to come together to reach net zero by 2034 and net negative by 2040.

We worked with YNYLEP on Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs) across North Yorkshire. This is an energy supply and demand management project and will help us to support communities to reduce energy demand and increase renewable energy supply locally. The project also researched:

  • making homes more energy efficient 
  • place based renewables 
  • decarbonising community buildings 
  • hospital decarbonisation activity  
  • micro electric vehicle uptake  

This project has now been completed. Read about Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs) across North Yorkshire.

Our carbon emissions by scope

North Yorkshire Council emissions in tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) by scope.
  2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22
Scope 1 5,330 5,096 4,850 4,477 4,211 4,218 4,055
Scope 2 11,174 9,133 7,400 6,268 4,789 4,274 3,328
Scope 3 3,069 3,006 2,913 2,747 2,473 1,390 1,678
Total 19,573 17,235 15,163 13,492 11,473 9,882 9,061
  • Scope 1 covers direct emissions released straight into the atmosphere through activities owned or controlled by the council, for example gas boilers in council buildings and use of council owned vehicles
  • Scope 2 covers indirect energy emissions through the consumption of purchased electricity, for example
  • Scope 3 covers other indirect emissions as a consequence of our activities, for example business travel using staff’s own cars
Service area Emissions in tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) 
Corporate property 38% 4,328
Business travel 34% 3,886
Streetlight 28% 3,259

In 2019/20 our corporate property produced the highest percentage of our total CO2e emissions at 38%, with business travel at 34% and streetlights at 28%.

Carbon emission reductions

We developed a carbon reduction plan to help us reach our target of net-zero neutrality for the council by 2030, or as near to that date as possible.

Our vision and ambitions

We want North Yorkshire to be a thriving county which adapts to a changing world and remains a special place for everyone to live, work and visit. Our ambitions are:

  • leading for North Yorkshire
  • every child and young person has the best possible start in life
  • every adult has a longer, healthier and independent life
  • North Yorkshire is a place with a strong economy and a commitment to sustainable growth
  • innovative and forward thinking council

As part of delivering our vision and ambitions, we are seeking to work in a more sustainable way and reduce our costs. This includes:

  • reducing our CO2e emissions, energy and water consumption
  • minimising waste - reduce, re-use and recycle
  • rationalising our property and managing our land sustainably
  • procuring in a way which balances economic, social and environmental factors, and seeks to increase social value
  • ceasing unnecessary travel and reducing the impact and cost of necessary travel
  • supporting and encouraging our staff, schools and residents to take similar actions

We support the government’s aim for the UK to be net carbon neutral by 2050 and the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s ambition to be the UK’s first carbon negative region – carbon neutral by 2034 and carbon negative by 2040. These ambitions were endorsed by the leaders of the councils of York and North Yorkshire through the submission of devolution asks in December 2020 aimed at achieving a carbon negative region.

In terms of our own carbon footprint, we have an aspiration to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030 or as close to that date as is possible. In this plan we set out our progress to date and our plans for the next three years.

From April 2022 this plan will be integrated into our Council Plan and reviewed annually. Progress will be regularly monitored as part of our corporate performance management framework including quarterly performance reports to our Management Board and Executive.

We are also part of a wider leadership team, including district councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership, working to encourage and support our residents, businesses and communities to be part of the county and country achieving net carbon neutrality. A comprehensive joint work programme is still to be developed by the partners, although some initial elements are highlighted in this plan.

Whilst the actions identified in the plan focus on ourselves, we and other local authorities will not be able to tackle every aspect of carbon reduction nor achieve net carbon neutrality without government support and action through legislation and fiscal measures. Significant changes in national infrastructure will also be required, for example increases in generation, distribution and/or storage of electricity.


A number of terms are used when describing the emissions which contribute to climate change and global warming. We explain some of these below:

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) - a greenhouse gas is any gas in the atmosphere which absorbs and re‐emits heat, and thereby keeps the Earth’s atmosphere warmer than it otherwise would be. The main GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone (O3). GHGs occur naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere, but human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are increasing the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change.  

Carbon dioxide - carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common GHG emitted by human activities, in terms of the quantity released and the total impact on global warming.  

Carbon dioxide equivalent - the term carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is used to describe different greenhouse gases in a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming impact. 

Carbon footprint - the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.

Net carbon neutrality - because we will not be able to eliminate emissions entirely by 2030, net carbon neutrality refers to the reduction of emissions to the lowest levels possible and removing the remainder from the atmosphere through carbon sequestration programmes (or offsetting) such as tree planting.

Energy use is one of the main contributors to our carbon emissions and the route to net carbon neutrality in terms of energy is a three-step process:

  1. reducing energy use as much as possible 
  2. the use of energy from renewable sources 
  3. sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, for example through tree planting

Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions

Scope 1 – All direct emissions from the activities of an organisation or under their control. This includes fuel combustion on site such as gas boilers, fleet vehicles and air-conditioning leaks.

Scope 2 – Indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used by the organisation. Emissions are created during the production of the energy and eventually used by the organisation.

Scope 3 – All other indirect emissions from activities of the organisation occurring from sources that they do not own or control. These are usually the greatest share of the carbon footprint, covering emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water.

Our carbon footprint

Our carbon footprint consists of:

  • Scope 1 emissions – heating and ventilation of our corporate buildings and use of fleet vehicles (this does not include school buildings)
  • Scope 2 emissions – electricity use for power and lighting (including street lighting)
  • Scope 3 emissions – including business travel using staff’s own vehicles, procurement of goods and services, schools, companies we own, waste and water use

We have direct control over and direct ways of measuring emissions from Scope 1 and 2 emissions. This is also true of business travel in Scope 3.

We do not have such direct control over, nor currently, direct ways of measuring, many of the emissions in Scope 3. However, as set out below, we are seeking to address this.

The emissions we have direct control over have reduced considerably over recent years.

Year Tonnes of CO2e
2015/16 19,600
2019/20 11,500
2020/21 9,882

About 40% of the reduction in emissions in 2020/21 is due to changes in working practices throughout the coronavirus pandemic.Clearly this was an unprecedented year, however, we aim to ensure that a number of these working practices which reduce our emissions are retained in the future.

Taking into account measures already agreed and funded, the electricity supply becoming greener because of government and market pressures, and continuing to reduce travel and office use begun during the pandemic - but without any further action - we estimate our carbon footprint in 2030/31 will be around 8400 tCO2e.

The chart below show our predicted emissions, in tonnes of CO2 equivalent, to 2035 if we were to take no further action.

Year Corporate property summary Business travel summary Streetlights Total
2015/16 7,320 4,425 7,829 19,574
2016/17 6,559 4,362 6,313 17,234
2017/18 5,701 4,237 5,225 15,163
2018/19 4,750 4,259 4,482 13,491
2019/20 4,328 3,886 3,259 11,473
2020/21 4,401 2,414 3,067 9,882
2021/22 2,482 3,303 3,882 9,667
2022/23 3,909 3,303 2,595 9,807
2023/24 3,827 3,303 2,418 9,548
2024/25 3,838 3,303 2,442 9,583
2025/26 3,767 3,303 2,288 9,358
2026/27 3,838 3,303 2,440 9,581
2027/28 3,778 3,303 2,311 9,392
2028/29 3,693 3,303 2,129 9,125
2029/30 3,597 3,303 1,919 8,819
2030/31 3,490 3,303 1,689 8,482
2031/32 3,366 3,303 1,421 8,090
2032/33 3,318 3,303 1,317 7,938
2033/34 3,238 3,303 1,145 7,686
2034/35 3,147 3,303 948 7,398

It may not be possible, using current technology, to reduce our direct carbon equivalent emissions to zero. To reach net carbon neutrality we will therefore need to consider a mix of reduction and sequestration.

Over time there will be changes that will aid the achievement of net carbon neutrality including legislation, fiscal incentives, new technological developments and market changes. But these will not, by themselves, enable us to achieve net carbon neutrality. We must take additional actions to achieve net carbon neutrality.

With regard to the emissions we have direct control over, we are not starting from scratch. We regularly explore opportunities to reduce emissions and we have a track record of taking appropriate opportunities within existing budgets and additional investments where there is a business case, for example our programme of installing LED street lighting. However, it is likely that future work will be more complex and expensive.

We recognise that actions that reduce carbon emissions in one area can result in increased emissions in other areas, for example having more staff working at home may reduce our direct carbon footprint, but the net impact will depend on individual circumstances including additional energy consumption at home and reduced travel. Similarly, property rationalisation should reduce our direct carbon footprint, but won’t necessarily reduce the county’s carbon footprint. These can be complex issues and the net impact of a decision should be explored in the relevant climate change impact assessments.

What we have achieved so far

Property use in scopes 1 and 2: carbon emissions under our direct control

Our property service aimed to reduce energy consumption by 15% between 2019 and 2024. This reduction is measured against baseline consumption in 2017 to 2018. This is based on a property list of corporate properties managed directly by property services, both operational and those in redeployment.

This target was already exceeded by 2020 and is currently under review by the property service carbon reduction group.

Energy use in kilowatt hours in North Yorkshire Council properties
Year Total kilowatt-hours Variance on previous year Cumulative reduction from baseline
2017 to 2018 (baseline) 26,953,612.70  Baseline Baseline
2018 to 2019 26,953,612.70 -13.65% -13.65%
2019 to 2020 22,132,617.98 -4.91% -17.89%
Carbon emission reductions in North Yorkshire Council properties
Year Tonnes CO2e Variance on previous year Cumulative reduction from baseline
2017 to 2018 (baseline) 6,264.92 Baseline Baseline
2018 to 2019 4,979.06 -20.52%  -20.52%
2019 to 2020 4,547.66 -8.66% -27.41%

On 24 March 2020 the Covid-19 lockdown started, reducing the number of staff in our property.

The activities of property services to reduce carbon emissions have been concentrated on rationalisation of property (Scopes 1 and 2, emissions under our direct control). They are working closely with services across the council to make more efficient use of space and release surplus accommodation that can be re-purposed or sold.

Tonnes of CO2e saved by property rationalisation 2018 to 2020
Year Tonnes of CO2e saved from property rationalisation 
2018 to 2019 109.92
2019 to 2020 54.76

The ongoing activities of this work forecast to make the following carbon emission savings, although there are likely to be considerable further changes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Estimated tonnes of CO2e saved by property rationalisation 2020 to 2026
Year Tonnes of CO2e saved from property rationalisation 
2020 to 2021 11.50
2021 to 2022 69.86
2022 to 2023  
2023 to 2024 81.04
2024 to 2025  
2025 to 2026 31.06

We review our property use and aim to reduce overall property costs. We estimate that rationalisation projects in Scarborough and Northallerton will lead to annual revenue savings of £230k by 2023.

We expect that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on staff work patterns will result in further opportunities to rationalise property and reduce carbon emissions.

Energy (Scopes 1 and 2 - emissions under our direct control)

We spend £1.8milion each year on energy across our offices, libraries and elderly person homes, which results in 4,547 tonnes of carbon equivalent emissions (2019/20). Our property service is working on a range of programmes to reduce both costs, consumption and the associated carbon emissions from energy usage and these have contributed to a 25% reduction in consumption since 2017/18.

The programmes, co-ordinated by the property carbon reduction group, include:

  • monitoring energy consumption data and bills to spot errors and ensure accuracy
  • monitoring heating and hot water systems remotely in many of our buildings to ensure they are running efficiently
  • undertaking changes to building systems to improve efficiency e.g. boiler replacements for more efficient models, lighting upgrades, insulation
  • feasibility studies exploring the heat decarbonisation, power generation and energy storage options available for different sites
  • production of a heat decarbonisation Plan for ourselves
  • reviewing funding opportunities to assist with the capital costs of such proposals

In addition, we also carry out work to assist schools to reduce emissions, including:

  • dedicated staff who work with schools to help teachers and students understand and reduce energy use
  • supporting the popular environmental scheme ‘eco schools’, which more than two-thirds of our county's schools are working on

Street lighting

We replaced 50,400 street lights across North Yorkshire with new LED technology. This was completed two years earlier than originally estimated saving over £4m.

The energy and maintenance savings between 2021 and 2022 were estimated to be £1.285m are projected from 2021 to 22 with an associated CO2e reduction exceeding 3000 tonnes.

This followed an earlier four-year programme, completed in 2016, which saw almost 27000 of our streetlights converted to part-night operation. These streetlights switch off between midnight and 5am reducing energy consumption by £400k and CO2e by 2000 tonnes.

Business travel

We actively encourage sustainable travel amongst our staff, councillors, service-users, contractors, residents and visitors and use available technologies (for example video conferencing) to reduce or remove the need for travel. We are working to improve air quality for people living in the county, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce the cost of the miles that we drive. We operate two electric cars within our fleet for staff to use because of their low running costs, outstanding range and low emissions. We are continually seeking opportunities to increase this number and are procuring a further electric vehicle for the Highways service. We are also looking at the feasibility of using electric vehicles for domiciliary care visits.

We have also worked with staff and councillors to reduce business mileage. Schemes such as Liftshare help our staff to travel more sustainably, whether this be commuting to and from work or attending a meeting. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that far fewer staff have been commuting to work and that the majority of meetings have been carried out virtually. We will ensure that we retain a number of these working practices which help us reduce our CO2e emissions.


We are committed to supporting North Yorkshire’s residents and the local economy through the work we do.  

Achieving value for money through our procurement and contract management activity will remain focused on the best mix of quality and effectiveness to deliver the requirements of the contract. We will take a broader view of value which includes social value. Where appropriate we will include award criteria which goes beyond the subject matter of the contract to encourage suppliers to operate in a way that contributes to economic, ethical, social and environmental outcomes.  

Brierley Group 

The Brierley Group is our trading arm and brings together council owned companies with the aim of improving customer experience and increasing overall shareholder value. All companies are moving towards more environmentally sustainable operating models, including:

  • Brierley Homes has used air source heat pumps and timber frame construction in some housing schemes
  • Yorwaste has installed solar panels at its head office
  • Align Property Partners are registered as low carbon consultants with architects accredited in low carbon technologies


Our energy and sustainability traded service provides support to schools to educate pupils on climate change and environmental issues. 

Our school meals follow a healthy eating policy and are produced freshly every day in school kitchens from only:

  • fresh meat and poultry sourced from the region
  • fruit and vegetables sourced regionally where possible using local suppliers
  • products free from additives associated with health problems in young children
  • fats free from hydrogenated oils
  • menus that are nutritionally balanced

Buy Local

We developed Buy Local in 2020 at the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown specifically to bring together local customers with county businesses. About 850 North Yorkshire businesses have already signed up to the site. Customers can search for a wide range of goods and services, encouraging residents to purchase from local suppliers, supporting the local economy, with the added benefit of reducing distance travelled and carbon emissions.

Future actions

Since agreeing our aspiration for net carbon neutrality, our main focus to date has been on:

  • understanding our carbon footprint and developing a pathway tool which helps us plot our route to net zero
  • identifying realistic potential options to significantly reduce our carbon footprint
  • establishing a measure of cost-effectiveness (pound per kilotonnes of CO2e removed) to help us prioritise our actions
  • establishing programme management to ensure that work to reduce our carbon emissions is effectively supported and is integrated into our corporate change management processes
  • developing a climate change impact assessment tool and incorporating it into our decision making process, so that carbon emissions and other environmental considerations are taken into account when decisions are made

All of these actions have helped inform our carbon reduction plan. In addition we are also:

  • engaging with partners, including district councils and the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and learning lessons from others. This includes participation in the commissioning of a Carbon Abatement Pathways study with the LEP and other partners and developing the resulting required actions, and contribution to the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission
  • encouraging our staff to take steps in the everyday ways they work to reduce our carbon footprint and save money
  • developing, implementing and supporting projects that will assist others to significantly reduce their carbon footprints and/or have other positive environmental impacts

What we need to do next to reduce our carbon footprint

Achieving carbon neutrality will require further action in addition to that which we are already undertaking. We will take the following actions over the next three years (all of which will require approval through normal decision-making processes):

Corporate property 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
Develop a business case for decarbonising heating and ventilation in corporate buildings

Linked to the successful application to the Public Sector Heat Decarbonisation Scheme, produce a Heat Decarbonisation Plan for our properties

Feasibility studies for heat decarbonisation and renewable generation options

Monitor and refine the implementation of the Decarbonisation Plan Monitor and refine the implementation of the Decarbonisation Plan
Develop a business case for use of ‘green’ electricity for corporate property and street lighting Develop business case for use of ‘green’ electricity    
Carry out a programme of structural improvements to schools and corporate buildings using funding obtained from the Salix Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund Implement the changes to properties using the £1.9m funding granted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) following a successful application to the Public Sector Heat Decarbonisation Scheme    
Continue our property rationalisation programme

Develop reporting format showing baseline emissions per property and property type

Further develop property rationalisation schedule

Continue to implement and refine rationalisation programme Continue to implement and refine rationalisation programme
Invest in energy efficiency measures within remaining estate Phase 4 of lighting upgrade

Undertake further work arising from the initial feasibility studies

Undertake further feasibility studies

Undertake further work arising from the initial feasibility studies

Undertake further feasibility studies

Carry out a programme of behavioural change with staff to reduce energy use

Annual programme of campaigns developed

Road show of campaigns being planned for main corporate offices – end of September to mid-November 2021

Linking of communications to Co26 event

Annual programme of campaigns developed Annual programme of campaigns developed
Take opportunities to work in partnership with other organisations to share property Assess on case by case basis as opportunities arise Assess on case by case basis as opportunities arise Assess on case by case basis as opportunities arise
Develop smarter working practices in relation to property use, including those accelerated or begun during the coronavirus pandemic. Develop future working models for office based staff Implement and monitor energy utilisation Implement and monitor energy utilisation
Explore and take advantage of external funding opportunities as they arise Ongoing Ongoing Ongoing


Business travel 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
Develop a business case for a move to battery electric vehicles (BEV) for corporate fleet including provision of charge points on corporate sites

Energy Saving Trust and telematics review of fleet

Review of keyworker lease scheme

Develop an approach to home charging

Deliver BEV fleet as infrastructure allows

Develop business case for the use of EV minibuses in the IPT fleet as the market develops

Deliver BEV fleet as infrastructure allows
Review the locations of pool vehicles and booking system Review locations and define booking process for pool vehicles Replace pool vehicles with BEV  
Carry out a programme of behavioural change with staff to reduce travel and energy use Develop Driving at Work strategy to utilise telematics to reduce fuel use    
Develop Driving at Work strategy to utilise telematics to reduce fuel use Ongoing Ongoing Ongoing


Sequestration (offsetting) 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
Develop a business case for forestry planting and explore other opportunities to sequester carbon

Undertake detailed options appraisal for using our land / other land for woodland creation – with support from White Rose Forest (WRF) revenue funding.  Develop a tree strategy for management of our tree and woodland resource

Scope options for peat restoration

Begin implementation of tree planting schemes scoped in 21/22  
Explore and take advantage of external funding opportunities as they arise Application to White Rose Forest government grant funding    
Work in partnership with other local authorities, landowners, businesses and communities to increase tree cover across the region through the White Rose Forest (WRF) project, the community forest for North and West Yorkshire Establish North Yorkshire WRF delivery group to support establishment of new woodland creation and local tree planting projects    


Training 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
Work with the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the district councils in North Yorkshire and City of York Council to develop a carbon literacy training programme for staff and Councillors

Training module development completed – July 2021

Local authority rollout – from October 2021

Review training programme and revise if required