Individual actions can reduce up to 25% of global carbon emissions. Here’s how

Governments and companies have a key role to play in preventing the worst effects of climate change — but we can also pitch in. Individuals can make a big difference, claims a new study, by implementing a simple six-step plan. If everyone would follow this plan, it would account for a quarter of the emissions reduction needed to keep global warming down to 1.5ºC

Image credit: The campaigners.

Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), comprised of the world’s leading climate scientists, said in a new report that the climate crisis is causing “dangerous and widespread” adverse impacts in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people. The situation is much worse than predicted in previous reports, and while we still have a chance to avoid the worst results, the window is closing quickly.

“This pioneering analysis ends once and for all the debate about whether citizens can have a role in protecting our earth. We don’t have time to wait for one group to act, we need all action from all actors now,” Tom Bailey, co-founder of the campaign, said in a statement. “The JUMP is a grassroot movement that comes together to make practical changes.”

The good news is there is still plenty we can do.

Climate change and individual action

The research was carried out by academics at Leeds University and analyzed by the C40 network of world cities and the global engineering company Arup. It was published alongside the launch of a new climate movement to persuade and support well-off people to make “The Jump” and sign to the six pledges to reduce their emissions.

The study looked at the impact of consumption on greenhouse gas emissions. It showed that in order to avoid ecological breakdown, a 2/3 reduction in the greenhouse gas impact of consumption in rich countries is required within 10 years. This shift can be achieved through changes across key sectors such as buildings, energy, food, transport, appliances, trade, and textiles.

Citizens have primary influence over 25-27% of the changes needed by 2030 by making key lifestyle changes. In other words, we can’t control most of the changes that need to be done — but we can control some of them.Not everyone is equally responsible. Higher-income groups must take faster and bigger action.

“This analysis shows the collective impact that individuals, and individual choices and action, can contribute to combating climate change,” Rachel Huxley, director of knowledge at C40 cities, said in a statement. “This is really important in showing that citizen action really does add up, and alongside government and private sector action, individuals can make a major contribution.”

The six actions

So, here are the six lifestyle changes everyone should take to address climate change:

  • Eat green: Combing reducing household food waste to zero and a shift to a mostly plant based diet, would deliver 12% of the total savings needed by North American and European countries.
  • Dress retro: By reducing the number new items of clothing to a target of three, maximum eight, delivering 6% of the total savings needed.
  • Holiday local: As close as is possible, reduce personal flights to one short-haul flight every three years, and one long-haul every eight years.
  • Travel fresh: For those who can, reducing vehicle ownership and if possible moving away from personal vehicle ownership, would deliver 2% of the total savings needed by 2030.
  • End clutter: By optimising the lifetime of both electronics and appliances, keeping them for at least seven years, would deliver the 3% of the total savings needed
  • Change the system: To influence the remaining 73% of emissions citizens could take action that encourages and supports industry and government to make the urgently needed, high impact changes to change the system. For instance, swapping to a green energy supplier, changing to a green pension, retrofitting our homes, or taking political action.

3 thoughts on “Individual actions can reduce up to 25% of global carbon emissions. Here’s how

  1. Paul W

    I am an older American and remember well the first “Earth Day” which was while I was in school. I was in scouting as well and helped with paper drives and aluminum drives to help recycle. For the past 50 years I have been doing all of these things.

    I also use cold water for my laundry (and add a 15 minute soak), dry on a clothes line, have never taken an airline flight other than those few my employer made me take for business, and have always had economy cars which I kept for more than 10 years each. Any shopping trips have been on the way to or from work so I don’t have to make a separate trip. I use Linux and it’s lower resource requirements have enabled me to keep my computer for an average of 8 years, i.e. until it dies from some unforeseen physical issue.

  2. Don Parda

    Fermin, excellent emphasis on individual actions. Our list of key actions are similar. Here are some additional actions and increased emphasis from my list.

    Less heating and less cooling – a huge addition. GreenBetween 13 C and 30 C (55 F and 85 F). Don’t heat above 13 C. Don’t cool below 30 C. https://greenbetween.home.blog/

    Less driving. Emphasize bicycling, walking, scootering…  Getting rid of a car is great – I have – but bicycle… to the maximum extent possible, even if you feel you need to retain the car for certain needs.  “Holiday local” also applies to less driving.

    Less flying. Holiday local – yes, but forget the once in three years and once in eight years. We are combating a global warming crisis that requires drastic action. Visit virtually… 

    Less procreation – two children max. For family planning until we get global warming under control.

    For these actions, I use the inclusive word consumers (individuals, organizations, businesses, governments).

    In addition to your share of the common footprint, what’s in your carbon footprint? 7 tons for heating your home above 55°F? 7 tons for cooling your home below 85°F. 4 tons for driving 12,000 miles at 29 miles per gallon? 2 tons for flying 10,000 miles? 1 ton for eating one serving of beef each day?… We need to promptly reduce our CO2 emissions toward “zero” tons/person/year (current emissions: global 4.5, USA 17.5). Tenaciously spread the Less Now, More Later message. Now, embrace a Less lifestyle – less heating and cooling (GreenBetween 55°F to 85°F, https://greenbetween.home.blog/), less driving, less flying, less meat-eating, less procreation (2 children max). Later, we can embrace a More lifestyle made carbon-free by implementation of green technology and infrastructure. Sea levels were 78 feet higher and temperatures were 5°F warmer, when, 3.6 million years ago, CO2 concentration last reached our current level of 420 ppm.

  3. Don Parda

    Fermin, excellent emphasis on individual actions. Our list of key actions are similar. Here are some additional actions and increased emphasis from my list.

    Less heating and less cooling – a huge addition. GreenBetween 13 C and 30 C (55 F and 85 F). Don’t heat above 13 C. Don’t cool below 30 C.  https://greenbetween.home.blog/

    Less driving. Emphasize bicycling, walking, scootering…  Getting rid of a car is great – I have – but bicycle… to the maximum extent possible, even if you feel you need to retain the car for certain needs.  “Holiday local” also applies to less driving.

    Less flying. Holiday local – yes, but forget the once in three years and once in eight years. We are combating a global warming crisis that requires drastic action. Visit virtually… 

    Less procreation – two children max. For family planning until we get global warming under control.

    For these actions, I use the inclusive word consumers (individuals, organizations, businesses, governments).

    In addition to your share of the common footprint, what’s in your carbon footprint? 7 tons for heating your home above 55°F? 7 tons for cooling your home below 85°F. 4 tons for driving 12,000 miles at 29 miles per gallon? 2 tons for flying 10,000 miles? 1 ton for eating one serving of beef each day?… We need to promptly reduce our CO2 emissions toward “zero” tons/person/year (current emissions: global 4.5, USA 17.5). Tenaciously spread the Less Now, More Later message. Now, embrace a Less lifestyle – less heating and cooling (GreenBetween 55°F to 85°F, https://greenbetween.home.blog/), less driving, less flying, less meat-eating, less procreation (2 children max). Later, we can embrace a More lifestyle made carbon-free by implementation of green technology and infrastructure. Sea levels were 78 feet higher and temperatures were 5°F warmer, when, 3.6 million years ago, CO2 concentration last reached our current level of 420 ppm.

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