What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint relates to the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by individuals, organisations or productions. According to Just Energy, the ‘ideal’ carbon footprint should be between 2-5 tonnes per person, per year. Good Energy believes that the average person in the UK has a carbon footprint of 10 – 13 tonnes per year. This is more than double the desired amount.
Our carbon footprint has a significant effect on climate change. On the first day of the COP27 summit, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General for the World Meteorological Organisation said: “People and communities everywhere must be protected from the immediate and ever-growing risks of the climate emergency.”
Guterres highlighted the severity of the situation, saying: “the world is on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Research from the World Health Organization shows there will be an additional 250,000 deaths per year from 2030 -2050. This would be primarily through climate change. Individuals should feel an obligation to do what they can to prevent this from happening, as we are to blame.
Luckily, there are some very simple steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint.
An obvious course of action is to start walking and cycling where appropriate.
These transportations are incredibly sustainable as they do not produce harmful emissions. UK Energy Research Centre says that by cycling and walking we could reduce our global footprint by up to 84%!
Our strategic investment plan (SIP) proposes building more active travel routes and enhancing existing roads to be multi-modal creating safer conditions for vehicles and cyclists to travel together. Routes like Avenue Verte which the SIP suggests expansions to will serve as protected areas for cyclists to travel long distances. This along with segregated cycle lanes will help cyclists feel safe when travelling on main roads.
Shared-ownership car clubs
The COP27 meetings showed us that carbon dioxide contributes to around 75% of global warming. Of that 45% of emissions come from passenger cars, according to Statista.
If you prefer travelling by car, you could think about joining a shared-ownership car club. With this, you pick up a car from a designated space and drop it off once you’ve finished using it. This, in turn, reduces the number of cars on the road, therefore, lowering CO2 emissions.
Car sharing is another alternative. If you are travelling somewhere to meet other people, could you all travel together?
Another thing you could think about doing is switching from a standard petrol/ diesel car to an electric one. Electric cars have rapidly risen in popularity since 1996.
Electric cars do not emit harmful gases, making them a lot more sustainable than petrol/ diesel cars. EDF believe that they are also likely to cost you a lot less throughout ownership. Electricity is a lot cheaper than petrol and electric cars generally require a lot less maintenance.
We are currently working with local authorities in the south-east region, to develop an electric vehicle charging infrastructure strategy. This strategy will determine where’s best to build electric vehicle (EV) charging points. This research considers how many charge points there are in the region, where they are already located and which roads the majority of EV travellers pass through. The aim is to increase the provision and ensure EV charge points are appropriately located supporting the shift to electric vehicles.
For those who cannot drive, one option is electric scooters. These zippy contraptions have been popping up all around the U.K. They have recently been introduced in some areas of the south-east, including Southhampton and Portsmouth. Much like electric cars, e-scooters do not produce harmful emissions and are suitable for short journeys.
All forms of non-electric transportation produce harmful emissions, that will contribute to climate change. However, some modes release less CO2 than others. According to the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the National Rail emits 41g of CO2 per passenger Kilometre. In comparison, a medium petrol car lets off 192g and a medium diesel car that emits 171g.
A bus lets off a significantly higher amount of greenhouse gases in contrast with trains. Bus routes do consist of low-speed limits and slow-moving vehicles, inevitably resulting in raised emissions. We are also seeing a rise in the introduction of electric buses making them a very sustainable option.
Based on the statistics above, the atmosphere could benefit significantly from the switch to public transport.
Air travel is one of the most carbon-intensive ways of travelling, and if you fly, it’s likely that your flights will make up the largest part of your carbon footprint. The most effective and reliable way to reduce emissions from air travel is to take fewer flights. The good news is that not flying doesn’t mean not travelling, and there are lots of other ways to go on holiday. For example, taking the train from Southampton to Barcelona generates just 11.5kg CO2 per passenger, a 93% saving on the same journey by plane. Coaches are also a really good option for the budget-conscious traveller, with an average 60% reduction on emissions, and Flixbus is a good resource for finding long and short distance coach travel throughout Europe. Or take the ferry – there are four international ferry ports on the south east coast alone.
It’s not always possible to cut out all flights, so there are certain things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint for the flights that you do have to take. Choosing economy over business class will significantly reduce your portion of emissions. Some planes are more efficient than others – Skyscanner will usually show you which airlines have a newer, greener fleet. You can also help keep emissions down by reducing the amount of luggage you are taking on board, as well as choosing destinations with a direct flight rather than lots of connecting flights.
(This section has been updated as of 28/11/2022 in consultation with Flight Free UK, charity number 1199328.)
A long-term vision…
The recent COP27 meetings have clearly highlighted the severity of climate change. We’ve also been advised on how important it is that we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we emit.
There are so many things we can do to lower our individual carbon footprints. Transport is just one of the things you can adjust. If you’re eager to help stop climate change, there are multiple websites that tell you what else you can do.
– Energy Saving Trust
– Future Learn
– Carbon Footprint
– Positive Planet
– National Grid