We are in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis. It is restricting us in all areas of life, and causes so much suffering. But we know it will pass, and afterwards we will re-orient ourselves. Other topics will re-emerge, one of which will certainly be climate change. How will we look back and reflect then? Here a few numbers on our carbon footprints, and what effect the current restrictions have on it.
Taking into account UK production and import of goods, the average person in the UK produces 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year. To gradually achieve the UK 2050 climate change targets, this year the average should be 10.5 tonnes. In April, CO2e emissions have been reported to be 40-60% lower in Europe than before the virus outbreak.
How about travel? The currently reduced movement and air travel are reducing humanity’s carbon footprint. For example, not holidaying in the Canary Islands saves a massive 2 tonnes of CO2e per person! Not driving a car for two months saves over half a tonne of CO2e (more for 4-wheel drives). Road traffic in the UK has fallen by 70% since the restrictions have been introduced, and air traffic by 90%. Many families are now happily walking or cycling together; many people work from home. When social distancing ends, many of us will remember the lovely quiet roads and choose to travel less. It will be good to be with colleagues again, but we could continue with more home-working, walking or cycling to school or work, and avoid driving in congested traffic.
How about food? This accounts for up to 3 tonnes of CO2e per person per year, but is much lower when food is not wasted, and by eating less meat, fish, processed food and air-freighted food. Now it is more of an effort to get food, and many of us will waste as little food as possible. Life-skills we are developing in creative cooking, freezing or sharing food which is close to its sell-buy date, are all essential to addressing both the current crisis and climate repair.
How about ‘stuff’? Each of us produces between 2 and 5 tonnes of CO2e per year, just by buying goods. Yes, we can still buy online. But as many shops are closed we think twice about what we need, and we overall consume less, which reduces our carbon footprint.
And how about washing hands? Once you have used up your liquid handwash, why not opt for a soap bar: less energy needed for transport (soap is smaller and lighter to transport than liquid handwash), and no plastic pollution. A small change but clean hands with minimum harm for the planet! And please try and turn the tap off whilst lathering up your hands such not to waste water.
So how about reflecting on changes you have had to make which have reduced your carbon footprint and exploring if you can happily build them into your life for when the Covid-19 outbreak is behind us?