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From the first Conference of Parties (COP 1) held in Berlin Germany in 1995 to COP 26 held this year in Glasgow, Scotland, the rallying call has been for countries to do more for the planet. While there have been ambitious targets set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is the adequacy of initiatives put in place that have always been questioned.
COP 26 was held against the Covid-19 backdrop where countries are still fighting to revive their economies, boost their employment figures, and keep inflation at the minimum. In the COP 21 held in Paris, France in 2015, the famous ‘Paris Agreement’ was reached. The 196 parties present agreed to limit global warming to levels below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.
While climate change has largely been a fight and concern among countries at a macro level, it is time we brought it further down to the micro-level. The success in slowing down the rate of climate change lies in individual decisions and lifestyles. If humans can change then economies will change, and the planet will be spared. As the UK races towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, here is what you can do as a person to support this ambition.
Tackling the way, we heat our homes is super important. With winter here with us, the amount of energy consumed per household per day can go up quickly. Switching from gas boilers to heat pumps is not only a cleaner option for the planet but their 400%+ efficiency will save you money over the long run.
For every 1kW of electrical energy consumed, heat pumps produce about 4kW of renewable energy. Add to this the fact that they produce zero point of use carbon, and you have an environmental winner in heat pumps. In terms of lifespan, heat pumps can serve you up to 10 years longer than gas boilers.
The only prohibitive aspect with heat pumps is the installation cost which can go upwards of £10,000. Of course, you could use a secured loan to pay for it but the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) government scheme can help to cover your costs over the lifespan of the heat pump.
Compared to plant-based foods, meat and dairy products emit at least twice as much greenhouse gases. Food production as a category is responsible for about 35% of global emissions with 57% of that coming from meat and dairy products.
The most polluting meat product is beef, accounting for 25% of all animal-based emissions. Therefore, reducing the intake of meat and dairy products can have such a dramatic impact across the food system value chain.
Shared mobility solutions and switching to electric vehicles are some of the high impact individual mobility decisions to help reduce carbon emissions. In 2019, the transport sector in the UK produced a whopping 122 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This scale of emissions positions the sector as one of most polluting, followed by the power sector.
Think about this, if all cars were electric, carbon emissions in the UK would drop significantly hitting levels of up to 12%. Considering this, the UK government is looking at banning petrol cars by 2035 to pave way for the path to net-zero by 2050.
On the other hand, car sharing reduces car ownership, and the number of kilometres people drive. In turn, this cuts emissions per person per kilogram of CO2 by about 175 to 265. Pooling cars, therefore, is an option Britons can choose when travelling to reduce their carbon footprints.
Believe it or not, perfumes, paints and household cleaners are among the top pollutants in urban settings. Household products, especially those containing refined petroleum ingredients, release significant levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere.
The VOCs react with other compounds to produce particulate matter that trigger breathing problems and cause lung diseases. Some of the chemicals causing the most harm to the planet are foaming agents, preservatives, and detergents. As a lifestyle choice, Britons can switch to cleaning products with little or no synthetic ingredients.
Unless recycling rates improve, Britain may not achieve its net-zero target by 2050. To help in this regard, consumers should insist on products made from or packed using recyclable materials.
For instance, when buying gifts over the festive season, we should go for items packaged using recyclable paper. This would mean fewer trees being cut for paper and cardboard production.
Instead of single-use plastic straws go for bamboo or metal straws that are reusable. Thanks to the UK government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, single-use plastic straws will soon be a thing of the past.
Manufacturing industries contribute 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Pulp, paper, and print accounts for 1% of that. While this may not seem much, it is slightly above 20% of the emissions from iron & steel production which is at 4.8%.
In both home and commercial offices, paper is one of the supplies that gets used fast. There is a lot of printing that goes on, some of which may not be necessary. Some documents could be resized and printed on less paper or better still read directly from the screen or saved on devices.
Instead of sending a physical document, you could send it off as a soft copy in an email. This will reduce the carbon footprint along the entire value chain from paper production to logistics and waste management.
With the resources available today gradually getting depleted and the planet heating up, we must take decisive actions to slow down or stop this trajectory. Governments are warming up to the challenge while businesses are increasingly adopting Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) standards in their operations. As individuals, we also have a major role to play in ensuring that our voices and actions count. What’s discussed here are just some of the choices you can make, there are many more things to do.
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read about Amanda Gillam
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