The word carbon footprint gets used a lot, but do you know what a carbon footprint is? Find out what carbon footprint means, how to measure your carbon footprint and more importantly how to reduce it.
Why we do it
The Energy Saving Trust Foundation has one clear goal – to help people save energy, every day. To achieve this aim it’s vital that we offer an impartial perspective based on empirical evidence: one that’s respected by individuals, government and commercial organisations alike.
Our status as an independent, charitable foundation allows us to protect consumer interests while raising standards in sustainability and energy efficiency. The energy we use every day, at home and when travelling, mostly comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. This produces carbon dioxide, one of the most significant greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
During the last 40 years, the average temperature of the earth has increased significantly. We know from global temperature records that the Earth has warmed by about 0.75°C in the last century, which might not sound dramatic, but if temperatures continue to rise at this rate the impacts on our environment could be devastating.
One of the effects of climate change is more frequent and severe extreme weather events. As rainfall comes down in deluges, rivers are bursting their banks more often, with flashfloods becoming more common. Since rain records began in 1766, the amount of winter rainfall in England and Wales has risen slightly. Over the last 45 years there is evidence that there have been more extreme rainfall events. In 2009 UK flooding was the worst for 270 years, with areas like Cumbria witnessing widespread flooding.
The Association of British Insurers predicts an 8%, 14% or 25% increase for inland flooding insurance costs for a 2°, 4° or 6°C increase in temperature.
Meanwhile, our summers are growing drier and hotter: Central England Temperature has risen by about a degree Celsius since the 1970s, with 2006 being the warmest on record. We could be facing the kind of heat wave that killed thousands of people across the rest of Europe in 2003. We’re already seeing widespread water shortages and drought could become a major threat. Overall, it's clear that the cost to society, the environment, our health and the economy is going to far outweigh any perceived benefits of a warmer UK. But luckily, there's something we can all do about it.
How we can fight climate change
Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas to make the energy we use is what produces carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that is said to cause climate change. So using less energy will help fight climate change, as well as saving you money. The Climate Change Act of November 2008 commits the UK to the long-term goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050. Under the fourth carbon budget, the government is committed to reducing emissions domestically which will put the UK on course to reach these emissions targets.
The UK government:
- has introduced Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for the sale and purchase of homes
- is working with energy suppliers through the Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT) to help householders improve the efficiency of their homes
- has banned incandescent bulbs in favour of energy-saving light bulbs
- introduced an additional tax on energy use for businesses
- got all electricity suppliers to provide 10% of the electricity they sell from renewable sources
- lowered VAT from 17.5% to 5% on some energy-saving materials, if fitted by professionals
- has given £80 million to microgeneration grant schemes and started a Feed-In Tariff so householders can earn money from generating electricity.