Reducing Our Use Of Petrol And Diesel Cars Is One Of The Most Effective Things We Can Do To Prevent Climate Change, Fossil Fuel Consumption
But the message is failing to get through to many Kiwis, the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (EECA) has discovered.
The government agency surveyed 700 New Zealanders, asking them to rank the effectiveness of nine actions, from flying less and ditching plastic to buying organic food, on greenhouse emissions.
Just two out of five respondents thought cutting back on petrol and diesel car use would have a high impact on climate change. Even fewer people – just 32 per cent – reported they were putting this principle into practice.
Despite the low public awareness, downsizing our petrol and diesel consumption could make a massive difference to the country’s carbon footprint, said EECA chief executive Andrew Caseley.
If one in five New Zealanders who drive to the office worked remotely just once a week, we’d save 84,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year, the agency calculates. Fossil Fuel Consumption
In contrast, 59 per cent of all survey respondents thought recycling was one of the most effective climate actions. Caseley said recycling can reduce waste and pollution but “unfortunately it doesn’t do much” to cut emissions.
Recycling a product can save carbon, but less than you might think: recovering a tonne of aluminium saves 7 tonnes of greenhouse gas, while recycling a tonne of paper saves 0.2 tonnes, according to Zero Waste Scotland.
All up, our waste produces the equivalent of 4.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, though the majority of these greenhouse gases are made when organic matter – think food, garden clippings, paper, wood and fabrics – breaks down after being buried in landfills.
Our fuel usage from driving emits nearly four times as much, or 15.1m tonnes of carbon dioxide. Fossil Fuel Consumption
Caseley said the environmental impact of eliminating single-use plastics and recycling – “a great thing to do” – had received a lot of attention in recent years.
“People have associated that with climate change, quite closely,” he said. “That’s where the disconnect has occurred, in my mind.”
A similar-sized campaign may be required to help New Zealanders understand the benefits of ditching their cars, he said.
“If you can get that consumer pressure and push behaviour change to occur around how we use our motor vehicles… even a 10 per cent reduction in the emissions per year is meaningful,” Caseley added.
“There’s four million light vehicles in New Zealand. We have an unbelievable level of car ownership in this country. Therefore, every single one of us can make a contribution – unless we’re driving an electric vehicle – if we’re conscious and think: no, I don’t need to drive down to the dairy and buy that bottle of milk, I can walk.” Fossil Fuel Consumption
As international aviation contributes about 2 per cent of the world’s emissions, cutting back on flights is another green choice. According to the survey, 17 per cent of people said they have limited their air travel recently, though this result will be driven in part by pandemic travel restrictions.
Curiously, the survey found participants are also making low-emissions choices without realising it. Nearly seven in ten people purchased energy-efficient LED lightbulbs, which cut electricity use.
“That’s really good news,” Caseley said. “People are prepared to pay more, because we all know they cost more, to get a significantly longer life and a much lower cost of use.”
Even so, only 16 per cent of people thought this would help prevent climate change. Yet if every household switched to LED bulbs, the reduced power demand would prevent 84,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas entering the atmosphere every year. Currently, roughly 14 per cent of all bulbs are LEDs.
In addition, 63 per cent of respondents said they opt for low-energy appliances. However, only about a quarter understood the climate impact of this choice. Fossil Fuel Consumption
Although 82 per cent of the country’s electricity in 2019 was renewable, the rest is provided by burning natural gas and coal. Therefore, cutting electricity consumption is another effective step to prevent carbon emissions, Caseley said.
The weighed survey, administered by the research company TRA, was conducted in April, May and June and has a margin of error of 3.6 per cent.
This news was originally published at stuff.co.nz