Achieving a low-carbon household
For some years I have been recording the energy, mainly
electricity and gas but also car fuel, used by our household. I was
astonished one day to realise that over some nine years we had
cut our consumption of gas and reduced our car miles by over 40
per cent. But even more encouraging was that our total greenhouse gas emissions, electricity included, had been cut by over 60 per cent. And of course it is greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities which are known to be causing global warming and climate change, and which everyone should seek to reduce on a personal level.
How was this done? The answer lies in some changes in our
behaviour or lifestyle, but also in investing in a range of
modifications to our house and buying a car which emitted less
carbon dioxide per kilometre. Together these had the effect of
reducing our emissions. Admittedly I was fortunate in that during
this period I was retired with a good pension and our mortgage
had been paid off. In that sense my wife and I could be classed
among the financially better off. But there are many people in the UK who are also ‘better off’ and who, if they wished or were given some encouragement, could make similar savings.
Indeed, it is well known that on average the carbon footprint, which is a measure of the annual emissions attributable to an individual, of the better off is much greater than that of many of those less financially fortunate. So it is clear that for the UK, or for any other developed country, to drastically reduce its carbon emissions one part of the solution should be for the better off to 'step up to the plate' and do their significant bit.
As an example, if the richest tenth of UK households were to reduce their emissions by half, the next two richest tenths of households reduce their emissions by 30 and 20 per cent, respectively, and the rest, bar the poorest tenth, each reduce their emissions by 10 per cent that would save 20 per cent of the UK’s emissions by households (or 12 per cent of all the UK’s emissions). It is worth recognising that, in comparison with the vast majority of the world’s population, those of us in developed countries live lives of relative luxury.
There is no doubt that climate change which we, in developed countries, have helped and are helping to drive by our high-carbon-emitting lifestyles, is here to stay for a long time. In any event, many changes in behaviour or lifestyle are cost-free and can help you save money too. Even some of the energy-saving suggestions made here, and in a book I have written, that involve some initial expenditure will eventually lead to net financial savings as well.
Individuals and households, particularly the better off, should be encouraged to take greater responsibility for the emissions from their homes and lifestyles. There are many examples of how individuals and households can contribute in a limited, but together substantial, way to mitigate climate change. There are many things we can do that do not result in a less comfortable lifestyle, just in a more intelligent one.
The damaging aspects of climate change are well known. They
include extreme weather events, which today feature so
frequently in the news, rising sea levels and other unpleasant and
socially disruptive manifestations of this phenomenon.
It is a cop out for those of us who are better off to wait for
government, whether local or national, to tell us what to do and
even to pay for or subsidise what can be done at a personal level.
The technical solutions to reducing carbon emissions are obvious
but their implementation is held back by politics and by those with a vested interest in maintaining business as usual. Given the
urgency with which climate change needs to be addressed the
time for action is now.
Other pages on this site set the scene and give suggestions as to how to save energy and reduce emissions. There is also a page ('My book') describing a book I have written which is now on sale.