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How high are they?

At present in France we release 9 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per person per year in the form of CO2 emissions.

All our activities produce greenhouse gases:

  • Directly 
    • 25% of France’s emissions come from home energy use (heating, lighting, domestic appliances…) 
    • 12% from cars
  • Indirectly
    • Food production accounts for 20% of France’s emissions (mainly due to the use of fertilizers, and livestock digestion and excrement).
    • Manufacture and transportation of products accounts for 20% and 15% of France’s emissions respectively.
    • Treatment of waste products accounts for 3% of France’s emissions (mainly from the methane issuing from landfill sites)

Nine tons is of course the average level of CO2 emissions per person per year. However, if you live in a badly insulated house you heat at 22°C all winter long, live all year round on pineapple and green beans grown in Kenya, clock up 15,000 annual miles driving an estate car, and take your large family on vacation in Morocco in winter and California in summer, your emissions will naturally be a lot higher. If on the other hand you live in a well-insulated flat, set your thermostat at 19°C, only buy vegetables in season, take the bus or the subway to work, and the train to a nearby holiday destination where you rent a small car, your emissions will be a lot lower.

It is generally accepted that if we are to reach a sustainable level of CO2 emissions in the long-term and avoid major climatic disturbances on a global level, we must reduce emissions to 2 tons per person per year, i.e. divide our present emissions by four. This is the target France has set itself between now and 2050. Clearly we cannot succeed without changing some of our habits.

Of course we must reduce emissions, but how?

There are several ways we can do this. We have listed a few, together with their corresponding CO2 emissions reductions. These are useful to know because once we become habituated to simple gestures such as using energy-saving light bulbs, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that their impact on CO2 levels is relatively minimal compared, say, to reductions in emissions relating to travel!

Les 9 tonnes de CO2 par personne et par an sont bien évidemment une moyenne : si vous maintenez une température de 22°C tout l’hiver dans votre maison ancienne et mal isolée en dégustant des haricots verts du Kenya et des ananas, faites 25.000 km par an dans une grande voiture familiale et allez passez vos vacances d’hiver au Maroc et vos vacances d’été en Californie avec toute la famille, vous en émettrez certainement bien plus. Si en revanche, vous habitez un appartement neuf dont vous limitez la température à 19°C, choisissez toute l’année des fruits et légumes locaux et de saison, allez travailler en bus ou en métro et partez en vacances en train dans les gorges de l’Aveyron où vous louez une petite voiture, vous êtes sans doute en dessous.

Il est admis que le niveau d’émissions soutenable à long terme pour éviter des dérèglements climatiques majeurs sur la planète est de 2 tonnes par personne et par an, ce qui correspond à une division par 4 de nos émissions actuelles. C’est l’objectif que s’est fixée la France d’ici à 2050. Comme on l’imagine, cela ne pourra pas se faire sans quelques changements dans nos habitudes.

Vos déplacements

  • Take heed of the old “adage”: « Those who travel close to home are friends of nature » (reductions : 500 kg  - 7 tons +)

In other words: avoid flying!

Flying is the most effective way of emitting vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. If you fly to South East Asia and back you emit 4 tons of CO2, if you fly to Australia you emit over 7 tons, leaving very little room for manoeuvre if your aim is to reduce your emissions to 2 tons.

If you really must travel abroad choose say the souks of Marrakech rather than the streets of old Shanghai and you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 3 tons.

If culture is what you want go to Prague rather then St Petersburg and you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 400 kg.

  • Take advantage of the pleasures of your own backyard (reductions: 1 ton minimum)

France is the world’s favourite tourist destination. There must be places you have not yet visited. If you stay in your own country instead of spending your holidays in Turkey you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 1 ton.

  • Rediscover the joys of reading (reductions: 1 ton)

It is not always the simplest option, but if you take public transport to work instead of driving you will easily reduce your CO2 emissions by 1 ton per year, and could become a Sudoku ace to boot!

  • Rediscover the charms of the sleeper (reductions: 500 kg)

If you travel to Barcelona on a sleeper instead of flying you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 500 kg as well as saving yourself the price of a night at a hotel!

  • Roll down the car windows and let the breeze in (reductions: 200 - 400 kg)

Air conditioning increases petrol consumption by 20 - 30 %. If you turn off your air-conditioning and roll down the windows you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 200 - 400 kg …and save between 50 and 150 euros per year!

  • Take up exercise again (reductions : 50 - 100 kg)

Half of all car journeys are shorter than 3 km and a quarter of them are shorter than 1 km. Walking or cycling twice a week instead of driving is a great way to exercise (and go shopping), and will also reduce your CO2 emissions by 50 kg.

What you eat

  • Replace your sirloin steak with a pork chop (reductions: 100 - 200 kg)

Believe it or not beef produces more than 3.5 times as much CO2 per kilo as pork, because pigs are not ruminants and pig-fodder produces less CO2 than cattle-fodder. If you halve your beef intake and double your pork intake you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 100 kg per person per year and by 200 kg if you let beef stew in its own juice!

·        Replace your Veal Orloff with a Beef Stroganoff (reductions: 50 - 100 kg)

CO2 emissions from veal are 2.5 times higher than those from beef for the simple reason that veal comes from cows, which produce higher emissions. If you halve your veal intake and double you beef intake you will reduce your emissions by 50 kg per year and by 100 kg if you cross veal off your list for good!

  • Swap smoked ham for slow-cooked chicken (reductions: 40 - 80 kg)

Pigs produce twice as many CO2 emissions as chickens, so why not slow-cook a nice chicken instead of slicing into a smoked ham? By halving your pork intake and doubling your chicken intake you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 40 kg per year and by 80 kg if you say goodbye to pork altogether!

If you were to take the bold decision only to eat chicken your CO2 emissions would go down by 600 kg per year. Amazing but true!

  • And much more!

We have not calculated the corresponding CO2 emissions reductions for the following ways of becoming more energy efficient, but one thing is certain… every little helps!

    • Choosing fruit and vegetables grown locally saves on transportation.
    • Choosing seasonal fruit and vegetables saves on greenhouse heating and importation.
    • Choosing fresh produce rather than processed foods saves on packaging, transportation, refrigeration etc


Your household waste

  • Keep used bottles out of landfill sites (reductions : 5 kg CO2)

Bottles are very simple to recycle, and it is wasteful to send them to landfill sites. If everyone in France doubled their bottle recycling we would increase our total recycled glass from 50% to 75% and everyone would reduce their CO2 emissions by 5 kg per year. If the Germans can manage it why can’t we?

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