Reducing Greenhouse Gases

The increase in extreme weather events and rising sea levels tell us that climate change is a reality. So let’s get real – let’s understand where we are and what we can do about it.

Firstly, we need to understand the importance of reducing Greenhouse Gases and think how best to do this. There are some quick and easy things we can do.

Secondly, we have to go beyond what is in our direct control – we also need to influence politicians and businesses to play their party in bringing emissions down.

What’s the problem?

In 2015 countries agreed to try to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C as beyond the 2.0°C threshold very dangerous impacts occur.

It’s not just about future generations – very harmful impacts are happening here and now and much earlier than expected. Already some communities are having to relocate and nature is becoming badly affected. Moreover, if key “tipping points” (e.g. the melting of major ice sheets) are reached these will generate feedback loops which will turbocharge the changes.

However, not enough progress has been made on decarbonisation and the recent UN stocktake says that the world average warming is now at 1.1°C but that we are now on course for 2.6°C.

The good news is that it’s not too late to avoid catastrophic impacts if the right changes are prioritised.

Note: In general usage CO2 is shorthand which includes other Greenhouse Gases – e.g. the current farming model is a major source of nitrous oxide and methane.

If humanity carries on down this path the environment which supports us will be compromised. There is also the issue of fairness. The countries most affected have done least to cause the problem!

However, it’s not too late if governments, businesses and ourselves take concerted action!

Treading lightly has long been an environmental metaphor so a Carbon Footprint is a good analogy to consider the impact of our choices.

If the average UK footprint is around 15 tonnes of CO2 p.a. and we need to bring this down nearer 7 tonnes by 2030, we need to understand where we are on this continuum. This is where Carbon Footprinting and Carbon Budgeting are useful tools to help us.

Check out our guide here.

Which sectors cause most of the problem?

The chart to the right broadly shows how different sectors of the UK economy contribute to the problem.

We can see that the Transport, Energy, Business and Farming sectors produce the largest amounts of Greenhouse Gases.

Note: These figures only show UK domestic emissions. The indirect emissions caused by the production and transportation of goods and services we import, say from China, are not included.

So if we want to reduce emissions as a whole we need to look at our consumption of “stuff” and our food miles.

How does that translate to our domestic consumption?

If we look at households we can see that 5 key lifestyle areas need to be tackled.

The pie chart shows that, broadly, the five aspects generate similar sized carbon footprints. So that means we have to assess our choices against each of these 5 pieces of the pie.

The graphic, of course, is based on averages and no-one is average! For example, if you don’t fly regularly, or at all, your footprint will be substantially lower than the average.

So where to start?

You may wish to consider these key high level actions which will make a real difference.

  1. Insulate your home (see here) and our energy saving tips here.
  2. Switch to a truly renewable electricity
  3. Consider solar panels
  4. Cut down on flights
  5. Downsize your car
  6. Travel differently
  7. Repair, re-use and buy half your products secondhand
  8. Purchase high quality, long lasting products
  9. Buy seasonal food from small scale, local organic (ideally) farms
  10. Eat less quantity but higher quality meat, switch to a plant-based diet as much as possible

SinCH has started creating checklists of key actions you can consider when tackling each of these sectors.

What’s interesting is that many actions are fairly easy – but to work they need focus (a new mindset) and to be applied consistently. It’s not possible to do everything at once so priortise – pick your battles.

Some options such as solar installations cost a lot but, given energy costs, will repay you over a sensible period.

Should we use Carbon Offsetting ?

This is a controversial issue and there are a number of worries about offsetting:

  • Does it encourage us to feel good whilst still created Green House Gases and nothing really changes?
  • If we keep putting more carbon into the atmosphere it will last a long long time – it’s essential to avoid it in th efirst place.
  • Are the reductions being promised by Offsetters actually being acheived, and in the right timeframe?

So what advice can we give just now?

  • Avoid the need to offset in the first place.
  • If you do want to pursue offsets do careful research.
  • Check out the summary here which explores these issues in more detail.

We all have choices to make

SinCH isn’t here to tell you what to do, it tries to give you the information to make your own choices.

Also we have to recognise that a choice can involve competing demands and judgement about which is most important. Whilst local organic produce is a no-brainier, what about the bottled orange juice imported from Germany by road?

Our choices do matter as we can decide to spend on things which lead to a more sustainable outcome. If enough people don’t buy airfreighted vegetables the shops eventually won’t sell them.

Will that be more expensive? Often yes, but not always – it can be cheaper to make up your own breakfast cereal and evening meals than buy over-priced ultra-processed foods. You can also control the ingredients you are using for better nutrition.

We have to make our own judgements on what we can afford. Often better quality will go further or last longer and so make sense. There’s also a well-being factor to consider by making a positive choice, by making life simpler and by taking control ourselves. Are exotic holidays and lots of clothes really making us happier?

We can also choose to bank or invest so our money isn’t funding things we don’t support. A good overview of some of the issues can be found here.

Lobbying and Campaigning

We can also influence family and friends and put pressure on politicians and businesses in a respectful way.

Whilst it’s important that we do our bit with lifestyle changes and by choosing where we spend our money, it will take a general “decarbonisation” by businesses and governments to achieve the reductions needed.

Many organisations you may be affiliated with, such as the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and the RSPB often have campaigns which you can join and this is a way to add your voice.

Local MPs do sometimes listen to feedback and it’s fairly easy to contact them. A good place to start is to support the campaign for the Climate & Ecology Bill which seeks to link these two issues up and commit the government to think through a deliver a joined-up response to these challenges.

So let’s Think Globally and Act Locally – our local borough and parish councillors are concerned about quality of life and the environment so let’s enlist their help in improving things here in the parish.

SinCH is pleased to be have representation on the Stafford Borough Council’s Climate Change and Green Recovery Panel which is helping o tackle Climate Change and Biodiversity loss. We are also helping the delivery of the Parish Council’s Green Infrastructure plan by developing local projects.

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