Take the one tonne challenge!

What would it mean for our families and lifestyles if Petersfield were to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions?  

You probably know that reducing carbon emissions is key to meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global heating to 2°C and ideally 1.5°C. You probably also know that missing those targets would be bad news

It is less well known how ordinary households and families can play a vital role in hitting this target.    

The UK has set a target of 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching that target will mean significantly decreasing the amount of fossil fuels we burn, with the bulk of the reduction happening in the next 10-15 years. The UK's current plan is to reduce emissions to 78% of 1990 levels by 2035.

The average household in Petersfield is responsible for 18.8 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, according to the brilliant and user friendly Impact Tool. Households in surrounding villages average a bit more than this, typically around 20 tonnes, presumably because more houses there have oil and LNG boilers. 

Taking the 18.8 tonnes for Petersfield as a starting point, this number should come down to 7.2 tonnes per household per year by 2035 to be consistent with the UK’s Paris targets, according to the UK’s Committee on Climate Change 6th Carbon Budget.

That’s a reduction of 11.6 tonnes, or 62%, per household over the next 14 years.*

If each household in the Petersfield area reduced its emissions by one tonne every year, we could meet this target with two years to spare. Is it possible? It's a challenge - but we think it is possible.

Of course, each household is different and will have its own ideas about how to go about it; some will start by replacing their car with an EV, others might start by flying less, having a vegetarian day each week, or installing energy efficiency measures in their homes.

Some of the savings will happen automatically as supply chains and producers decarbonise, for example each year the electricity supply includes more wind and solar.

But most of the savings will need to come through us, as householders. 

It will mean making a few changes. As an illustration, here is how a typical Petersfield household emitting 18.8 tonnes might go about saving one tonne a year over the next few years by focusing on just one thing each year. The figures are approximate and it doesn’t matter in which order these happen:

Year 1 – more staycations, cut flying by two thirds – save 1 tonne (vs current average 1.4 tonnes from flying)

Years 2 and 3 - retrofit home and switch to heat pump – save 1.7 tonnes (assumes 14k kWh initial gas heating load, one fifth reduction in primary energy use from energy efficiency measures, ASHP SPF 2.7, GHG conversion factors for gas and electricity of 0.183 and 0.212)

Years 4 and 5 - buy more second-hand goods, halve the purchase of new consumer items - save 2 tonnes

Year 6 – go vegetarian three days a week – save 1 tonne

Year 7 - replace existing petrol car with new EV – save 0.76 tonnes or 1.3 tonnes if EV is bought second hand (assumes 8000 annual mileage, 210 gCO2/mile incl embedded carbon for existing small petrol car, 115 for new small EV and 45 for second hand EV, source)

All of these changes would save the household money, either immediately or within a few years, and would ensure the household is on track to do its part towards meeting the Paris goals.

The big pieces – retrofitting our homes and replacing our cars – will need supportive policies from the government and a lot of investment in the electricity grid, which is starting to happen. Our product choices – from building materials to consumer goods – must also account for the climate and environment impacts of manufacture and disposal, which is not happening yet and really needs to.

The crucial point for us is that we don’t need to wait for the whole economy to be transformed, we can start making our journey now. If we each challenge ourselves to cut one tonne of carbon from our household emissions each year, most of the hard work will have been done by the end of this decade. 


* Households are counted as 2.4 people, so the equivalent figures per person are 7.8 tonnes per person per annum being emitted now, with a target of 3 tonnes pppa by 2035, needing an annual reduction of nearly a third of a tonne per person per year.