World Environment Day is commemorated each year on 5th June. This year too, it was celebrated with a slogan “Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy”. Recognising that climate change is becoming the defining issue of our era, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is asking countries, companies and communities to focus on greenhouse gas emissions and how to reduce them. The World Environment Day highlights resources and initiatives that promote low carbon economies and life-styles, such as improved energy efficiency, alternative energy sources, forest conservation and eco-friendly consumption.
UNEP is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the ‘Human Environment’. Smt. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India was the only Head of State who was present there as part of the Indian delegation.
Another resolution adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
It is one of the principle vehicle through which the UN stimulated world wide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The agenda is to give a human face to environmental issues; empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development; promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues; and advocate partnership, which will ensure all nations and people enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.
The focus of the global 2008 celebrations in New Zealand will be on the solutions and the opportunities for countries, companies and communities to “Kick the habit” and de-carbonize their economies and life-styles. Measures include greater energy efficiency in buildings and appliances, including light bulbs, up to a switch towards cleaner and renewable forms of electricity generation and transport systems.
The focus will also be on the role of forests in countering rises in greenhouse gases. An estimated 20 per cent of emissions contributing to climate change globally are a result of deforestation.
Last year, the main World Environment Day event was held in Norway, with the theme Melting Ice ? a Hot Topic?, and focused on the effects that climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities, and the ensuing consequences around the world.
UNEP in its ‘Climate Action Plan’, has made several recommendations to reduce carbon emissions. The twelve steps to help Kick the Habit are:-
Make a Commitment
Several countries have indicated in recent months that they will go carbon neutral, led by Costa Rica, New Zealand and Norway. The United Nations system itself, led by Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, and guided by the UNEP-led Environment Management Group, is moving towards carbon neutrality. UNEP is also facilitating carbon neutrality in all sectors and all regions through its climate neutral network.
Assess Where You Stand
It is likely that carbon will eventually be judged as an atmospheric pollutant and regulated accordingly, with consequent costs—and opportunities—for all sectors of society. Knowing where and how you generate greenhouse gases is the first step to reducing them. For individuals and small businesses, online calculators and internal assessments can help start the process. Larger organisations may need specialised advice and tools, such as the new ISO 14064 standard for greenhouse gas accounting and verification, or the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, provided by the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which is an accounting tool for government and business managers to understand, quantify, manage and report greenhouse gas emissions.
Decide And Plan Where You Want To Go
Based on your assessment of climate-related risks and opportunities, a strategy and action plan can be developed. Targets help focus efforts and also provide a benchmark for measuring success. Most homes or businesses can reduce energy use by 10 per cent-which almost always results in a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A plan to reduce carbon emissions will first focus on the type of energy and the way it is used; for example electricity for buildings and fuel for transport. An effective tool is an energy audit.
De-Carbon Your Life
There is a broader way to think about carbon and climate. Everything an individual, organization, business or government does or uses embodies some form of carbon, either in products themselves or in the energy and materials it takes to make them. Integrating climate friendly criteria into decision making can trigger a ripple effect. If consumers, manufacturers and lawmakers all think ‘low carbon’ and ‘climate friendly’ savings in carbon emissions will multiply.
Get Energy Efficient
Improving the efficiency of your buildings, computers, cars and products is the fastest and most lucrative way to save money, energy and carbon emissions. Energy efficiency is about increasing productivity but doing more with less. More efficient buildings, cars and products will have a direct and lasting contribution to limiting carbon emissions. Very simple measures can lead to immediate savings. Just turning off unused lights, motors, computers and heating can substantially reduce wasted energy-and money.
Switch To Low Carbon Energy
If possible, switch to energy sources that emit less carbon and can reduce costs and emissions. Generally, coal produces twice the emissions of gas, six times the amount of solar, 40 times the amount of wind and 200 times the amount from hydro. In many parts of the world customers can choose to have a percentage of their electricity supplied from a renewable energy source, such as a wind farm or landfill gas project. These ‘green choice’ programmes are maturing and proving to be a powerful stimulus for growth in renewable energy supply.
At the small business or household level, tax breaks and incentives can make solar photovoltaic systems and other renewable energy technologies cost effective. Rooftop solar electric panels can provide energy over time, reduce electricity costs and provide a buffer against price fluctuations. UNEP is helping promote such schemes in southern India and North Africa.
The transport sector is responsible for 25 per cent of total energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning petrol and diesel. Various options exist for kicking the carbon habit. Hybrid engines that combine electricity and conventional petrol or diesel engines can offer substantial fuel savings while reducing emissions.
Invest In Offsets And Cleaner Alternatives
There is a limit to how much efficiency you can squeeze from your lifestyle or your organisation’s operations, or how much renewable energy you can employ. The choice for those who wish to compensate for their remaining emissions is to fund an activity by another party that reduces emissions. This is commonly called a ‘carbon offset’ or ‘carbon credit’. The term carbon neutral includes the idea of neutralising emissions through supporting carbon savings elsewhere.
Looking at life or business through a carbon neutral lens can help by increasing the efficiency of resource use, avoiding and reducing waste and ultimately improving overall performance and reputation. Integrate the 3R approach—reduce, reuse and recycle—into thinking.
Offer-or Buy-Low Carbon Products And Services
The market for climate friendly products and services is growing rapidly, from energy efficient products to new renewable energy systems. Ecodesign is an important strategy for small and medium sized companies both in developed and developing countries to improve the environmental performance of their products, reduce waste and improve their competitive position on the market.
Buy Green, Sell Green
The market for green products and services is also expanding. In many countries consumer surveys report that growing numbers of consumers are willing to buy green products if given the choice. For businesses, innovative product design and presentation combined with responsible marketing and communications can help ensure that this consumer interest translates into purchasing.
Many private sector companies are increasingly working with non-governmental organisations, cities or governments to identify and implement best practice solutions to reduce emissions.
The increasing importance of climate change means that companies and organisations will need to communicate. Transparency is critical. Reducing emissions, particularly by improving efficiency is a win-win situation that can also enhance a company’s reputation. The Ministry of Environment and Forests will celebrate the day by launching the Environment Ambassador Campaign and presentation of 3 Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar and 1 Young Environmentalist award and also with the appeal to ‘Pick Right! Making the right choices’ – to pay attention to climate change, achieve growth in a sustainable way to make positive contribution to the future of planet Earth.