The airline industry has become a focus of both carbon ‘anger and angst’, along with a reawakening of the carbon offsetting debate. Yet carbon is not the only issue for the airlines, it is socially unjust (with only some 15% of the population flying regularly) and the other greenhouse gasses such as NOx do damage to health and environment at point of emission – something that cannot be offset.
But, with this sector contributing only 2% of globally emissions we must also look closer to home and to improve our carbon understanding and literacy.
Our homes and buildings contribute 40% greenhouse gas emissions, with 28% through design and the way heat cool and light, the way we live, play and work within our homes and buildings. 11% is through the manufacturer of building materials, with cement and concrete contributing a whopping 8% of total world co2 (if it were a country it would rank 3rd in emission output)
In 2019 the built environment sector woke to climate warming design flaws with a large number of architects, engineers and contractors committing to address the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. The RIBA 2030 climate challenge sets tough challenges to reduce embodied carbon in homes and buildings by 75% by 2030.
With the huge housebuilding programme across the country these are commitments and challenges our house building sector should be embracing today. Failure to do so only stokes a future of ever increasing emissions, biodiversity degeneration in addition to the health and finance for future generations.
The Government is currently consulting on ‘The Future Homes Standard‘ – an update to the building regulations for new homes. However, the proposed changes to building regulations are likely to make buildings less energy efficient not more, according to the work of London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti), a network of more than 1,000 architects and engineers. Perhaps even more worrying is a proposal to prevent local councils from going beyond national standards and demanding greater energy efficiency or lower carbon emissions. If you haven’t as yet, you should be writing to your MP on this as part of the consultation. (Friends of the Earth Manchester have useful information and how to do this)
But perhaps a sleeping giant of carbon emissions is the vast amount of data we generate, share and reshare, store only to never return to. And a major contributor are emails. We have all seen the warning at the bottom of emails, “Please consider the environment before printing.” But if we care about global warming, we might want to consider not writing so many emails in the first place.
“Right now, data centers consume about 2% of the world’s electricity, but that’s expected to reach 8% by 2030. Moreover, only about 6% of all data ever created is in use today,” according to research from Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
That means that 94% is sitting in a vast “cyber landfill,” albeit one with a massive carbon footprint.
“It’s costing us the equivalent of maintaining the airline industry for data we don’t even use,”
Understanding carbon is complex and giving rise to awareness courses and events on carbon (or eco) literacy courses. Ideally we need a reliable and accurate equivalent to food labelling that informs us of the carbon or ecology footprint of our flight, our homes and our emails … and all the other stuff we use and do.
A good place to start is Mike Berners Lee (Professor at Lancaster University and Sustainability Patron for Cumbria Action ) ‘How Bad are Bananas’
And of course we need to list not the rising young generation and to paraphrase Greta Thunberg from her talk at Davos ‘we cannot address the climate emergency with clever carbon number fudging, accounting or offseeting – we need zero carbon’