Islanders’ carbon footprint among the biggest in Britain, says new study

The map shows the high domestic emissions in Shetland. Click on image to enlarge.
The map shows the high domestic emissions in Shetland. Click on image to enlarge.

Carbon dioxide emissions per head of population in Shetland are among the highest in Britain and almost double the Scottish average, according to damning new figures published by the UK government.

The report shows that the average Shetlander produced 13.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2007, more than the average for people in every area of Scotland other than Falkirk and East Lothian. Household emissions for electricity grew faster than anywhere else in the country in the year to 2007, by two per cent.

Shetland’s total carbon dioxide emissions are estimated at 301,000 tonnes in 2005. But it still works out at nearly double the Scottish average of 7.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person and much greater than the 8.5 tonnes average for the UK population.

The figures were published this week by the Department for Energy and Climate Change in a report entitled “Local and Regional CO2 Emissions Estimates for 2005-2007 for the UK”, comparing every local authority area.

The Shetland tally is not skewed by emissions from Sullom Voe, which were effectively spread throughout the country and beyond in the survey because it looked only at the end use of products like oil and gas.

It is generally accepted that the colder, more exposed climate and the dispersed rural nature of the community means people have to spend more on heating their homes and getting from A to B. But the average figure of 13.7 tonnes is also significantly higher than for roughly equivalent locations such as Orkney and the Western Isles, which recorded 12.1 and 11.4 tonnes per person respectively.

The report shows that household carbon dioxide emissions for electricity use increased from a total of 57,000 tonnes to 58,000 tonnes year-on-year to 2007, comparing unfavourably with a fall from 6,524,000 tonnes to 6,440,000 tonnes in Scotland on the whole. The average Shetlander emits 2.64 tonnes of carbon dioxide through his/her use of domestic electricity each year, according to the statistics.

On the other hand, carbon dioxide emissions caused by industrial and commercial use are estimated to have fallen by nearly eight per cent, from 55,000 tonnes to 51,000 tonnes in the same time period.

Figures for carbon dioxide pollution from petrol and diesel to fuel cars and other vehicles have been fairly stable, totalling 47,000 tonnes in 2007 – and average of 2.14 tonnes per islander.

Carbon reduction officer for Shetland Amenity Trust Harriet Bolt said the report’s findings reaffirmed the importance of urgently reducing our carbon emissions. “Obviously our local climate and rural landscape leads to increased energy use through heating and transport, but other island communities such as Orkney and the Western Isles had much lower emissions per capita than us.

“Shetland has the highest percentage rise in emissions from the domestic sector over the whole of the UK, and reductions need to be made across our whole community, including industry.”

But isles MSP Tavish Scott claimed the study’s findings were questionable. “I just don’t believe it,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that our level of emissions is as high as this report indicates. It must be that rural and isolated areas are more difficult to monitor and accurately assess than big areas like Glasgow and Dunblane.”

The study suggests that, while aggregate changes in land use in Scotland have cut carbon dioxide emissions, in Shetland that figure rose from 175,000 to 177,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2006 and 2007. However those particular figures come with a strong health warning. Scientists admitted that while the numbers on land use change were accurate at a national level, “very little data is collected at local authority level”.

A full version of this story is available in this week’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • Kevin Learmonth

    • October 11th, 2010 17:32

    I’ve been mulling this over for a while, so sorry for such a late comment to a still topical issue.

    If Shetland has the most efficient wind turbines in the world at Burradale (fair play to them), and these turbines produce “up to 20%” of our electricity needs, why hasn’t our domestic electricity CO2 output fallen?

    Is it the case that 20% of wind derived electricity onto the local grid is not displacing as much fossil fuel as the theorerical model suggests?

    Shetland is in a great position to find out what works and what doesn’t in looking at ways to reduce CO2 output. The SSE owned – bunker oil burning – power station in Lerwick and gas burning power station at Sullom Voe know to the exact tonne how much fuel they have used over the last 10 years.
    The big question is, how much fuel have we really saved? The answer to that could help guide the future energy policy of not just Shetland but the whole of the UK. Reducing energy consumption, reducing the waste of finite resources is a bigger part of the solution than simply increasing overall generation capacity.
    Increasing generation capacity (from any source) is like buying bigger clothes to combat obesity.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.