Reduce your carbon footprint: at least 10% per year
People living in developed countries who want to be part of the solution to climate change should aim to reduce their carbon footprint by at least 10% per year.
The basis for this is
- The residual global CO2 budget runs out in 2030 at current emission rates (see document 54). Reductions in emissions of 11% year on year will enable the world to stay within this budget.
- Those with CO2 emissions above the global average should reduce their carbon footprint faster in order to stay within their personal lifetime share of the residual global CO2 budget, which is 50 tonnes (see document 54).
- Those with carbon footprints lower than the global average, e.g. living in a developing country, should also aim to stay within their personal lifetime budget of 50 tonnes CO2, which may not mean immediate radical cuts. This is in line with the Paris Agreement which allows peaking of emissions to take longer in developing countries (see document 122).
In practice, this means:
- estimate your footprint for the last 12 months (or the last calendar year)
- set a target for a reduction of at least 10% in the next year, and then a reduction of at least 10% in each subsequent year
AdvantagesPeople voluntarily cutting their carbon budget
- switch from being part of the problem to being part of the solution - less guilt!
- can advocate to others (individuals, businesses, etc) that they cut their carbon footprint - without risking being accused of hypocrisy
- are encouraging the development of a low-carbon economy
- increase the number of people living a lower-carbon lifestyle, which adds to the pressure on reluctant politicians to make the right decisions.
The evidence is that the purchasing decisions of a group of individuals can have a large effect. Fair Trade is one example. It has expanded enormously in the last few decades, all down to the personal purchasing decisions of individuals.
The author's experienceWe started measuring our carbon footprint in 2006 for the year 2005: it was 11.9 tonnes equivalent CO2, i.e. not much less than the UK average of 13.4 tonnes - and we thought we were pretty environmentally aware!
We settled on a plan of a reduction of 10% per year - we considered more, but 20% per year seemed difficult and would probably not be something that we could advocate to others. A smaller reduction e.g. 5% seemed half-hearted. So we settled on a 10% reduction per year i.e. to 90% of the previous year's target.
Initially we were on track:
|Year||Target (tonnes equivalent CO2)||Actual CO2 footprint|
|2006||10.7 (i.e. 90% of 11.9)||9.6|
|2007||9.6 (i.e. 90% of 10.7)||9.1|
|2008||8.6 (i.e. 90% of 9.6)||7.9|
|2009||7.7 (i.e. 90% of 8.6)||7.7|
|2010||6.9 (i.e. 90% of 7.7)||6.8|
|2011||6.2 (i.e. 90% of 6.9)||6.0|
|2012||6.0 (i.e. 96% of 6.2)||5.9|
|2013||5.8 (i.e. 96% of 6.0)||6.0|
|2014||5.6 (i.e. 96% of 5.8)||5.9|
|2015||5.4 (i.e. 96% of 5.6)||6.2|
|2016||5.2 (i.e. 96% of 5.4)||6.0|
|2017||5.0 (i.e. 96% of 5.2)||5.7|
|2018||4.8 (i.e. 96% of 5.0)||6.0|
|2019||4.6 (i.e. 96% of 4.8)||5.9|
|2020||4.4 (i.e. 96% of 4.6)||4.8|
|2021||4.2 (i.e. 96% of 4.4)||5.3|
|2022||4.0 (i.e. 96% of 4.2)||5.4|
After 2011, we reached half of our initial carbon footprint (and less than half of the average UK value). This was achieved via the changes of
- stopping flying
- 55% reduction in car miles
- 72% reduction in electricity use (via energy efficiency and installation of solar photovoltaic panels)
- 30% reduction in gas use
- switching to organic food, and local food where possible
- making purchases only when needed.
From 2011, our plan was to reduce at a rate of 4% per year, so that our footprint stayed at less than half of the per person value needed to meet the UK Government's then 2020 and 2050 targets.
We have found even this to be difficult, partly because of government inaction, in particular
- failure to make Passivhaus (home energy) technology  readily available and affordable
- failure to make walking and cycling easier and safer
- failure to improve public transport
- failure to support local organic food
- inadequate support for renewable electricity generation.
|||Passivhous home heating standards https://www.carbonindependent.org/88.html|
First published: 2009
Last updated: 12 Jan 2023