"Kick the CO2 Habit" - it may be easier than you think

Posted: 5 June 2008

Adopting a climate-friendly lifestyle needn't require drastic changes or major sacrifices, according to two United Nations reports published to mark World Environment Day (5 June).

People in the developed world, as well as some rapidly developing countries and cities - from Manchester and Manhattan to Moscow and Mumbai - can start right away to "Kick the C02 Habit", the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says.

World Environment Day 2008 poster
World Environment Day 2008 poster
Some quite simple measures can more than halve the daily emissions of an individual, with even bigger cuts possible if sectors like power suppliers and automobile makers as well as aviation and appliance manufacturers contributed more to the greening of global lifestyles.

For example studies indicate that if every airline passenger reduced to below 20Kg the weight of goods and items carried and bought what they needed on arrival at a duty-free lounge, this could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by two million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year.

One of the reports, a kind of Rough Guide to low carbon living, is entitled "Kick the Habit: The UN Guide to Climate Neutrality".

The other, compiled by experts in collaboration with UNEP and the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is entitled "Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector".

It focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing the world's biggest industry including those linked with flying - both long and short haul.

Other low-carbon lifestyle choices at home and when travelling include:

  • Backing campaigns to encourage airlines to give free coach and rail miles instead of free air miles in order to promote switches to more environmentally-friendly forms of transport.

  • Choosing to dry clothes on a washing line versus a tumble dryer - a daily carbon diet of 2.3 Kg of CO2.

  • Replacing a 45-minute workout on a treadmill with a jog in a nearby park. This saves nearly 1 Kg of the main greenhouse gas.

The main celebrations of World Environment Day are taking place today in New Zealand, one of five countries that have pledged to become "climate neutral".

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise across the globe with transport including aviation one of the fastest growing sources. Yet there are countless management, policy and technological opportunities for dramatically changing this trajectory through more intelligent choices by governments, industry and the global public.

"Some of these choices are big - from smart taxes to encourage offshore wind farms as opposed to more coal-fired power stations to national policies that favour cleaner and greener forms of mobility up to ones that promote energy efficiency rather than energy consumption," he said.

World Environment Day 2008 poster
World Environment Day 2008 poster
"Others are small, such as perhaps thinking about which appliances we buy, how we travel and where we source our energy. But multiplied across the world and acted upon by 6.7 billion people, the public have the power to change the future - have the power to personally and collectively influence economies to 'Kick the CO2 Habit'," he said.

New Zealand's Environment Minister Trevor Mallard said: "Sustainability is at the core of New Zealand's national identity. We take pride in our clean, green image, and we have set ambitious goals in our efforts to move toward carbon neutrality."

"Climate change is one of the biggest environmental issues facing the world today and World Environment Day is an important recognition of today's global interdependence and the responsibility that we all share for securing human welfare today and tomorrow."

Links:Kick the Habit, a UN guide to climate neutralityClimate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector (pdf download)For more on New Zealand's plans to create a carbon-neutral economy (with a video clip), see TVE's Earth Report: Blue Sky Dreaming