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Informing decisions: road-testing SE's Carbon Impact Assessment Tool


This report summarises the outputs from a ‘road-test’ and review of Scottish Enterprise’s (SE’s) Carbon Impact Assessment (CIA) tools. These were developed to allow SE to assess the impact upon carbon production of the various projects that it funded or was thinking of funding. The Study focused on the application of the carbon impact model and its associated user guide, but also considered the potential role for this tool and its companion ‘Carbon Assessment Lite’ tool within SE’s overall funding decision-making processes. The tools aim to provide a comprehensive consideration of all of the potential carbon-related impacts of the projects being appraised. The study had three main objectives: to ‘road-test’ the model and user guide by calculating the carbon impact of a small cross section of SE projects; to produce (if necessary) recommendations as to how the model and user guide could be revised and improved; and to produce a short ‘how to do it’ guide that will draw on the experience of using the carbon impact model to give practical guidance as to how the methodology should be used.


The CIA tool was used to assess the carbon impacts of the following six pilot projects: Amazon Fife, Toshiba Medical Visualisation Systems (TMVS), the Edinburgh Bio-quarter (EBQ), the Sustainable Transport Programme (STP), the Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) Knowledge Exchange and the SMART Exporter programme. Each project appraisal involved a combination of the following inputs: face-to-face discussions with project managers and other key players, examination of the appropriate economic impact assessments and reviews of relevant documentation.


The report concludes that the CIA tool is relatively easy to use, it includes all of the relevant sources of greenhouse gases and it is likely to provide useful insight into the carbon impacts of SE investments (particularly at the Scottish level). A number of issues were identified from the pilot studies that could hamper the use of the tool, including: it is not clear to users of the tool and guidance whether they are expected to use the tool to consider the net global carbon impact of their investment or just its impact on Scottish carbon emissions, or both; the tool appears to be missing an easy method for including long term transport impacts; in general, the tool appears to be better-suited for calculating and comparing increases in carbon from economic development than predicting reductions due to support for technologies which might change behaviour and/or lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; the calculation of emissions from commuter distances appears to contain a number of flaws/weaknesses, such as the same average commuting distance for all modes being used; and there is a risk of potential double-counting of carbon impacts between different sets of calculations contained within the tool. The ‘How to’ guide is contained in a separate document.


Recommendations are made regarding how the model and user guide could be revised and improved. These include: SE should consider the use of the tool earlier in the design and appraisal of their projects and programmes; consideration should be given to making the Carbon Lite tool consistent with the screening sheet of the main CIA tool; the user should generally be encouraged to use the tool in Scottish-based emissions mode and comment qualitatively on any impacts which would differ at the global level; project costs should be removed from the tool; the tool should include more user-alerts in order to reduce the occurrence of double-counting; provision should be made to permit the inclusion of long-term transport-related impacts; and the average length of commuting trips should be reflected more accurately.

Author MVA Consultancy
Published Year 2011
Report Type Research
  • Equity
    Sustainable development