The path to net-zero may seem like a complex one. The target itself – reducing and offsetting all carbon emissions produced by a building or organisation – is almost overwhelming. Fortunately, there are several organisations and resources that can help. SCATTER is a free tool designed to help local authorities map and reduce their carbon footprint. Here’s everything local authorities need to know about SCATTER…

What is SCATTER?

SCATTER is an online tool for local authorities. It stands for:

Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reduction.

The SCATTER framework helps local authorities and city councils set targets in line with the Paris Agreement: to cap global warming at 1.5°C, global carbon emissions must balance at net zero by 2050.

SCATTER allows local authorities to calculate their carbon emissions. Once calculated, the tool helps authorities plot pathways and trajectories to different carbon scenarios through interventions. For example, it can help local authorities understand how much carbon would be saved through tree planting or managing livestock emissions.

Because SCATTER is a standardised framework, the results from different local authorities may be compared. This helps provide a detailed picture of emissions and pathways across the UK.

SCATTER was developed by the Antithesis Group in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Nottingham City Council and The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The tool was originally piloted with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The tool is free and simple to use; anyone with a email address can create an account.


How does SCATTER work?

The SCATTER tool has two main features: inventory and pathways.

The inventory feature allows local authorities to capture a detailed understanding of their carbon emissions by inputting certain details into the tool. According to SCATTER, “creating a greenhouse gas inventory for a local authority allows an organisation to identify the sources of their emissions and where to focus action.”

The inventory feature also serves another purpose. Recording emissions data in the SCATTER inventory allows local authorities to disclose these figures to important third-party organisations like CDP. By publicly disclosing environmental data, CDP helps keep thousands of countries, businesses, and organisations accountable for their environmental impact.

Once a local authority has assessed its carbon inventory, the pathways tool helps them develop a journey towards decarbonisation. It helps local authorities plot what their carbon footprint could look like up to 2050, depending on different levels of intervention. For example, what it would take for them to half their carbon footprint, or to achieve net zero. This can then help them set targets and plan a strategy.

The data from SCATTER can be exported in visual reports and resources, useful for educating and onboarding stakeholders.


Are there any limitations to SCATTER?

SCATTER cannot tell local authorities how much it would cost to implement any of the carbon-saving interventions in the pathways feature. As you might expect, there are too many variables for each local authority.

Despite its simplicity, SCATTER is not yet used by all local authorities across the UK. If more city councils and authorities used the framework, we would have a much clearer picture of the UK’s threat to climate change, and the action needed.


Why is recording and reporting carbon emissions so important in the fight against climate change?

According to the UK Green Building Council, there is often a discrepancy between the modelled and measured C02 savings from offset initiatives. This gap means that businesses, organisations, and even countries, may believe they’re operating much more greenly than they are. This is reiterated by CDP, who states “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”.

Once a local authority has obtained a carbon emissions report from the inventory feature, there’s a lot they can do with this information. SCATTER says their data may be used alongside carbon budgeting reports created by the Tyndall Centre. These reports provide local authorities with a carbon ‘budget’ in line with the targets of the Paris Agreement. It also informs local authorities how quickly they will use up this allotted carbon if they continue without making interventions.

These projected overshoots make for frightening reading. Here’s what the report has to say about Norwich, a city that is overall pretty green:

“At 2017 CO2 emission levels, Norwich will exceed the recommended budget available within seven years from 2020. To stay within the recommended carbon budget Norwich will, from 2020 onwards, need to achieve average mitigation rates of CO2 from energy of around -12.7% per year.”

If we continue to overshoot our allotted carbon budget, the planet will keep getting warmer. It is already too late to stop global warming completely in its tracks. Summer 2020 has seen record temperatures of 38 degrees C in the Siberian Arctic. Scientists had not anticipated such a temperature rise until 2100, indicating that the planet is heating much faster than anticipated.

The Paris Agreement attempts to cap global warming at 1.5°C because a greater increase than this poses a very real threat to human existence. Utilising the SCATTER tool allows local authorities to gain a clearer understanding of their carbon footprint. Only when they know the scale and cause of the problem can they devise a suitable solution.