Achieving Net Zero Case Study: the carbon calculation tool helping local authorities measure their emissions

As more local authorities come together to set net zero targets and implement carbon reduction strategies, we need the right tools to monitor change and outcomes. FoL’s Knowledge & Events Intern Kana Nomoto explains how carbon calculation tool SCATTER is helping cities assess, report and reduce their carbon emissions. 

Logos of SCATTER developers
The tool has been developed collaboratively by Nottingham City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research and Anthesis, with funding from BEIS.

SCATTER stands for Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reduction. It’s a carbon calculation and modelling tool developed specifically for local authorities to understand their emissions on a practical level.

The web-based software intelligently aligns a council’s greenhouse gas reporting with international frameworks, such as the Paris Climate Agreement. This puts the efforts of each authority in context, helping them make better sense of how action at a local scale translates to the bigger picture.

“Local authorities, such as Nottingham City Council, were part and parcel of our team,” says Sara Telahoun, Senior Sustainability Consultant at Anthesis (the tool’s developer). “We worked really closely with councils to define what it would look like and to make sure it was relevant for them.”

The tool enables local authorities to do three things: assess, report and reduce carbon emissions. It’s available for all UK local authorities to use for free and has been piloted by over 20 councils, including Greater Manchester Combined Authority, City of Westminster, Sheffield and Leeds. There are currently over 140 local and county authorities registered on the online tool.

The nuts and bolts: What does SCATTER do?

Carbon inventory

Firstly, it assesses the amount of carbon emissions produced by a local authority by providing a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory for the local area. By compiling data across multiple sectors, the tool follows the GHG Protocol for Cities framework to calculate the area’s greenhouse gas inventory.

As illustrated below, these activities include direct emissions (Scope 1), such as factory processes and transport fuel, and indirect emissions (Scope 2) from the use of grid-supplied energy, as well as some Scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 captures GHG emissions from outside the city boundary, but which are caused by activities within the city.

Carbon inventory diagram
This diagram shows which sectors SCATTER compiles emissions data on. Source: SCATTER.

Carbon reporting

This inventory can then be used by local authorities to report their figures to organisations such as CDP to disclose their environmental impacts. Simeran Bachra, UK Cities Manager at CDP, explains the importance of carbon disclosure and how SCATTER can be used to capture this data:

Accounting for up to 70% of global emissions and home to 55% of the global population, cities are at the forefront of the climate emergency and have a vital role to play in meeting global targets. By disclosing their environmental data and understanding their emissions, local authorities can deliver actions that have an impact and can help us reach a low carbon future.”

Carbon reduction pathways

Thirdly, SCATTER helps local authorities understand how to actually reduce emissions. Users are able to map out ‘emissions reduction pathways’ to 2050 by selecting a level of ambition across over 30 reduction measures to model possible scenarios. The reduction measures fall into six categories:

  • energy supply
  • industry and commercial buildings
  • transport
  • agriculture and land use
  • domestic buildings
  • waste.

First ever district and borough-level modelling tool

The tool has been critical in developing Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA)  5 Year Environment Plan. GMCA used SCATTER to model the scale of reductions they would need to make and what specific actions would help to meet their targets within the given time frame. This informed decisions on how each sector could reduce their emissions and how progress could be monitored.

Graph from GMCA Environmental Plan
SCATTER was used to model potential emission reduction pathways in GMCA’s 5 Year Environment Plan. Source: 5 Year Environment Plan For Greater Manchester, Executive Summary 2019-2024.

What makes SCATTER unique and practical is that it’s the only freely available tool that councils can use to measure their impact without having to collect and analyse additional data. The tool is based on publicly available data that local authorities can then use to align with their climate action goals.

Because it’s based around a standardised framework, results from different authorities can be used to paint a detailed picture of how emissions compare across the UK. This highlights the importance of taking a collaborative approach to accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions we all want to see.

Cycle lane next to a road
SCATTER helps cities decide which actions to take to reduce their carbon emissions, including transport interventions. Source: FoL.

“Turning actions into a workable plan”

SCATTER succeeds in simplifying what many authorities find to be a complex task. “Working out what actions will have the greatest impact as cities look to reduce carbon emissions is a complex task. Turning those actions into a workable plan that is broadly supported by stakeholders is equally challenging [and] this is where SCATTER comes in,” says Brad Blundell, Director of Anthesis.

By providing a user-friendly and accessible platform, local authorities are able to know what practical next steps they can take to reduce their emissions. Whether your council’s carbon reduction strategy is already implemented or in its development stage, it’s crucial to know where to focus your attention and SCATTER can serve as a decision-making tool to understand this.

Carbon reporting allows tailored support to local authorities

The global not-for-profit reporting platform CDP is working with SCATTER to support local authorities with their GHG emission reporting and help them understand what measures they can take to meet UK’s net-zero target by 2050. SCATTER is a useful tool for visualising where a city’s emissions come from, allowing its leaders to build an evidence base that will structure their plans for meeting their carbon targets.

Understanding carbon pathways is important for identifying policy areas, meeting commitments in line with broader national objectives and measuring progress. With applied, accessible and scientifically backed tools like SCATTER, local authorities can work towards long-lasting and meaningful change.

Visit SCATTER Cities for more information on the tool and to sign up. Contact CDP to find out about climate disclosure and how to report.

Our Achieving Net Zero case studies showcase inspiring examples of best practice, from low-cost interventions to large-scale infrastructure. We want to raise the profile of schemes and organisations doing a great job of working towards the Net Zero ambition, highlighting what we can learn from them. 

If you’d like to get involved with our Achieving Net Zero programme, get in touch with Anna Odedun, Head of Knowledge.