The truth about GHG emissions

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With the increasing urgency and explicitness of environmental and climatic issues, common awareness of the need to act is growing. While this is a constant matter on national and international political level, a large number of non-governmental organizations addressing environmental topics have been formed throughout the last decades as well. It is also becoming increasingly clear that economic players contribute massively to global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore must take on their responsibility for their environmental impact. On an individual level, ideas and standards for an environmentally conscious life are picking up.

Practices like the calculation and reduction of one’s so-called carbon footprint are spreading. In this context, many factors come into play. First of all, there is the use of heat and electricity at home and at work. Then there is the products and services we consume. From the raw material to production to transport to the points of sale, GHG are emitted in every step. Another major factor of environmental pollution on an individual-level is transportation. Air travel has the reputation of being the biggest emitter of GHG. It is true that airplanes, and especially short-distance flights, have the biggest impact on the greenhouse effect because of the high fuel consumption, the effect of which is multiplied because of the altitude at which GHG are emitted. In general, the biggest share of GHG emissions in transportation, however, comes from cars. Car ownership is actually increasing in a lot of countries. So the problem with transportation is not only that it is already one of the biggest GHG emitters but also that, as opposed to most sectors, emissions in that sector are still rising in the majority of countries.

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But where do we, globally speaking, even stand concerning global warming? The UN Emissions Gap Report 2019 has been released – a report on the development of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It examines the gap between current developments and the developments necessary to reach the Paris Agreement’s 1,5º goal. Global GHG emissions are still increasing, with the top emitters being China, the US and the EU-28. Since a higher population justifies a higher emissions, looking at GHG emissions per capita might be more informative. That would put the US, Russia and Japan on the top three spots. The EU, however, still ranks number 5.

There is a vast amount of data and reports on the way humanity harms the environment and the climate. To get an overview of what activities account for how much damage, we have looked into the amount of emitted GHG divided by sectors. The UN regularly provides overviews of GHG emission data, the most recent one being from 2017.

UNFCCC

It is quite clear that the vast majority of GHG emissions comes from the Energy sector. The UN urges governments to support and subsidize the necessary transformation from fossil to renewable energies. Generally, what is important to bear in mind is that the sectors are complex and intertwined with each other. For example, the Energy sector does not only include energy industries, but also factors such as transportation or electricity and heat used in other industries. This means that the sector of Industrial Processes and Product Use is only comprised of emissions not related to energy input. Therefore, to grasp the industry’s role in GHG emissions, it does not suffice to look at the Industrial Processes and Product Use sector but factors such as energy consumption and transport have to be taken into account.

Energy sectorun

A sector not represented in the graphic used above is the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry sector (LULUCF). The reason for both its high relevance and also its absence in a lot of graphics is that it poses a mitigating effect to GHG emissions. Through appropriate land use and forestry activities, GHG can be removed from the atmosphere and emission of GHG can be decreased. It is for this reason that the UN stresses the importance of sustainable management, planting and rehabilitation of forests.

This is one of the benefits of our work at Social Forest. Thanks to the expertise of our team of forest workers and the collaboration with organizations and companies thriving to have a positive environmental as well as social impact, we turn forests into sustainably managed, biodiverse and educational places. Contact us to find out more about what we do and how we can work together to do our part in the battle for a healthy planet!

 

Graphs: UNFCCC

 

Related SDG

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