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Carbon Footprinting: How Big is the problem?

Carbon footprints

Carbon footprints are a way of accounting for the total greenhouse gases (GHG) caused directly and indirectly by a person, organisation, event or product.

The most common GHG is carbon dioxide (CO2), which makes up 81% of UK GHGs.

  • Other GHGs such as methane (CH4) or nitrous oxide (N2O) are measured in ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ (CO2e), which takes into account the diverse effects different gases have on the environment. 

A wide range of activities produce GHGs. For carbon footprinting purposes these tend to be broken down into 5 sectors:

Sources of Greenhouse gases (GHGs), including energy generation -burning coal, oil or gas; transport - burning petrol or diesel; agriculture - methane from livestock, nitrous oxides from fertilisers; waste - methane emitted from landfill; and land use change - soil erosion and deforestation.
Sources of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

We have made two carbon footprints: one for the County as a geographical area, and the other for us as an organisation. We are using these as a baseline so we can measure our success.

The County of Cambridgeshire

The latest carbon emissions data from the UK Government shows that carbon emissions just from the county of Cambridgeshire were 6.78 million tonnes CO2e in 2021. Around 27% of this was from transport, whilst 23% was from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and 14% from agriculture. The high emissions from LULUCF are mainly due to the large amount of peatland in the county.

Cambs GHG emissions 2121


If in a good condition, peatland can take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it. But if damaged, peatlands can release their stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

Cambridgeshire has around 27% of England's total peatland, but accounts for 70% of the wasted (damaged) peatland in the country.

The Council's carbon footprint

As an organisation, we have our own carbon footprint. This comes from the operations we undertake to provide our services to our communities.

We collated data on as many of our operations as possible, and followed the International Greenhouse Gas Protocol and government's environmental reporting guidelines to calculate our carbon footprint. We were unable to get some of the data for indirect emissions from our supply chain, but are working on getting more of this in the future.

The carbon footprint is updated annually to monitor progress. Each year, we also recalculate all previous years’ emissions, using improved methods and better data wherever we can. These annual carbon reports can be viewed below.


 Full reports are available to download below. 

Year Gross Emissions Total Explanation

185,621 tonnes CO2e

  • Baseline year.

173,935 tonnes CO2e

  • Similar to the previous year reflecting that the reporting year 2019-20 was prior to the implementation of our Climate Change and Environment Strategy.
2020/21 69,664 tonnes CO2
  • Less emissions mainly due to the Covid-19 Pandemic - reduction in many council activities, especially construction.
2021/22 81,742 tonnes CO2e
  • Slight increase in emissions due to the start of the recovery from impacts of the pandemic
2022/23 99,104 tonnes CO2e
  • Construction emissions still low in the post-pandemic years. Some increases in emissions from some activities but reduced emissions in others.
CCC annula gross GHG emissions graph