Sunday, 20 August 2006

The 60% Solution

Here in the UK, the average person generates about 10 tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases each year. Here’s how the emissions might add up in a typical household:

(thanks, COIN)

According to the UK Department for Environment, Forestry, and Rural Affairs (Defra), we have to cut our national emissions by 60% in order keep temperature rises below two degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of global warming. In the US, they’d have to cut emissions even more. And that’s just to prevent the worst damage, not solve the problem entirely.

How can you cut six tonnes of CO2 from your lifestyle? There are quite a few steps we can take that are relatively painless, and some reductions will actually save money. You’ve seen them before, so I won’t bore you with a laundry list in this post.

In short, drive a lot less. Fly a lot less. Reduce or eliminate gas use in your house and switch to a green electricity supplier. Buy locally produced food. If you’re run a business, switch to green electricity. Let your staff work from home on occasion. Provide incentives for staff to use public transport instead of driving. Videoconference instead of flying overseas to attend meetings.

All of these will help. But 60% less everything, is a big shift. If you live in a historically listed house or a rented flat, some renovations may be impossible, or public transport may simply not provide a good service where you live. So cutting emissions by 60% could require moving house and selling your car. If you run a company, the first 20% could save money, but that full 60% reduction might raise costs just enough to put you out of business. I think smarter land use planning, investments in public transport, better housing efficiency standards, and government incentives can make it easier for people to reduce their carbon footprint. At Carbon Clear we work with businesses to look at their operations and identify cost-effective options for in-house reductions.

But asking people to make all the reductions through personal sacrifice alone makes things too difficult. The last thing the environmental community needs is for people to feel that they can’t make a difference, and give up.

Our key message is to reduce what you can, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t manage a 60% reduction. Remember, a carbon reduction anywhere helps the atmosphere everywhere. What you can’t reduce directly, you can invest through Carbon Clear to support carbon reducing projects that benefit poor communities.

(Link to Carbon Clear Homepage)