Reducing Fossil Fuels covers a few of Project Drawdown's 100 solutions to reverse global warming, including:
Keep it in the Ground
Tip #5 is mega important. This is the one where the rubber really does hit the road, or rather needs to NOT hit the road! We have evolved a fossil-fueled culture that is hyper-mobile and super-charged. Freedom means being able to go wherever, whenever.
Getting a private car for many is their rite of passage into this way of life. In many ways our cities have been designed for cars. Huge areas are taken up by roads and carparks. For many of us our daily lives are lived on a bigger and bigger geographical scale. We crisscross urban environments without a thought, cities ever sprawl outward, people commute from town to city, overseas travel developed into something that many do often rather than once or twice in their lives.
Good public transport has almost been an afterthought, and has been seriously underfunded, largely because of the ascendancy of the privately owned fossil-fueled car. Did you know that Aotearoa NZ has the highest rate of light vehicle ownership in the world with 800 vehicles per 1000 people. It is a jaw-dropping fact. We are the private car capital of the planet. Only recently has there been government and local body investment in infrastructure for public walkways and cycleways.
The transport sector currently produces 48% of energy-related greenhouse emissions in Aotearoa NZ. It is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. There was a whopping 100% increase in domestic transport emissions between 1990-2018. Household transport emissions increased 15% in just six years 2011-17. That’s over 2000 tonnes of carbon. So this is an area of our lives and the way we do things as a country that needs to change radically.
Here’s the thing. In 2020 thanks to Covid our emissions dropped 4.8%. During the June quarter when the national lockdown occurred emissions dropped by 23%. So this is a large clue as to the changes that are needed. Breaking down the figures even further, a third of all our journeys by car are for a distance of less than 2km. By saying no to short car trips, and stretching our legs instead through walking or biking, we can slash greenhouse gas emissions, plus enjoy the benefits of getting a little fresh air and exercise while also getting somewhere. The benefits go beyond emissions reductions too. A reduction in cars on our roads relieves traffic congestion can fewer accidents and fatalities tend to occur. If we can reduce hugely these extremely short largely local journeys, we will significantly reduce our use of fossil fuels. Cycling, Electric Bikes, e-scooteringor walking more when local will make a big difference. Taking public transport will also help a lot. If you live in Greater Christchurch consider taking the bus with Metro, which is adopting a low emissions fleet.
Try and cut out single-purpose car journeys if you have to use the car for a particular trip. So don’t just cross the city to buy one product. Do something recreational as well. Or visit a friend or family member. Maximise the value gained from the journey. Resist the urge to race here and there with scattered purpose. Be more strategic in your movements rather than impulsive.
The Covid pandemic has changed how many of us work. Is it possible to negotiate with employers to work from home some of the time permanently to reduce travel? When you travel to work, consider cycling. Even one day a week. If the distance is off-putting, consider investing in an e-bike or hiring an e-scooter. Explore carpooling or carshare schemes. Even bus or drive half way and cycle the rest. Aim to get out of your car at least a day a week and develop an alternative means of commuting.
The government is offering incentives to switch to Electric Vehicles (EV’s) and Hybrids. While this is preferable to fossil-fueled transportation it still has many limitations and is not sustainable long-term. It may mean zero carbon travelling once you use the car but there are a lot of carbon emissions involved in the manufacture of an EV. Every EV also requires a lot of finite resources to be made. Its more about reducing the need than replacing it. Like all solutions to Climate Change - there isn't one answer. If a lot of us move to EVs that is great but even better is to reduce vehicle use altogether. One investigation looked into when you should replace your gas vehicle with an EV and they found you should look after it until it dies, reducing the need to extract more resources from our living planet if you replace it earlier. At the bare minimum looking after your gas vehicle, even keeping your wheels fully inflated will reduce your emissions. Check out government advice on EVs GenLess.
Air travel used to be a luxury, and something we did infrequently. Now we have frequent flyer loyalty schemes but we really need to fly less. If it is for work see if you can negotiate more use of zoom and other virtual platforms to reduce travel for one-off meetings. If holidaying, consider staying regional more often, or where possible using bus or train. Make the holiday more about the journey rather than a destination that you get to quickly. Take holidays where you go to one place and explore it extensively rather than including multiple destinations. Holiday with friends and family and share transport rather than each travelling separately.
But reducing the use of carbon fuels isn’t just about our own movements. It is about the movement of goods and services we purchase. Where at all possible refrain from buying overseas goods, and buy local/kiwi made. Buy NZ grown oranges not all the way from California or Queensland. Remember a product is not just a product. There is a whole story behind it. Find out more about where it comes from, and how far it has travelled and, in your choices, develop a bias towards those things that are local rather than global in origin. If you are unsure if its made here in Aotearoa then check here. When you shop - as much as possible shop local. Reduce trips across town or to other towns to go to retail outlets or malls, when there are other options closer. Supporting local businesses means they will thrive and their success will snowball and enable other businesses to start up as well.
Did you know plastics are also made from Fossil Fuels! We will cover this in Tip #6 Reduce Waste.
In summary, to reduce your carbon emissions - challenge your dependency on your car; become more local; diversify your transport options to include walking, cycling, sharing and public transport; reduce and aim to eliminate short car journeys; support local business and product, and live more modestly!
Statistics sources: Talk by the late Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Transport and Statistics NZ. Accessed Sept 2021.
Transportation (e.g. road, rail and air travel) was the largest GHG emission emitting sector, producing 54.0% of Christchurch’s total gross GHG emissions, with petrol and diesel use contributing to 73.4% to Transport emissions in 2018/19.
Christchurch City Council, 2020
Christchurch Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories for Financial Years 2018/19 - Christchurch City Council 2020
Electric Vehicles #26
EVs always reduce car emissions—dramatically so when powered by renewable electricity like in New Zealand (80% renewable). Compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, emissions drop by 50 percent if an EV’s power comes off the conventional grid. If powered by renewable energy, carbon dioxide emissions fall by 95 percent. The “fuel” for electric cars is cheaper too. EVs will disrupt auto and oil business models because they are simpler to make, have fewer moving parts, and require little maintenance and no fossil fuels. Electric Cars
Efficient Ocean Shipping #32
More than 80 percent of global trade, by volume, floats its way from place to place. Some 90,000 commercial vessels—tankers, bulk dry carriers, and container ships—make the movement of goods possible, transporting more than 10 billion tons of cargo in 2015. Shipping produces 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Forecasts predict they could be 50 percent to 250 percent higher in 2050. Because of huge shipping volumes, increasing shipping efficiency can have a sizable impact. (We say buying local reduces the needs for shipping in the first place. Don't let online buying trick you too). Efficient Ocean Shipping
Mass Transport #37
Public transport can keep car use to a minimum and avert greenhouse gases. All mass transport modes use scale to their emissions advantage. When someone opts to ride a tram or bus rather than driving a car or hailing a cab, greenhouse gases are averted. The benefits go beyond emissions reduction and accrue to all city dwellers, not just those who use it. By reducing the volume of cars, public transport relieves traffic congestion. With fewer people driving, fewer accidents and fatalities take place. Overall, air pollution drops. Mass transit also makes cities more equitable by providing mobility to those who cannot drive.
Urban transport is the single largest source of transportation-related emissions, and growing. With good urban design, public transport can help embed mobility, livability, and sustainability in cities. Public Transit
Fuel-efficiency is critical to reduce road-freight emissions. Existing fleets can be retrofitted, while new trucks can be built to be more efficient or fully electric. The impact of trucks on greenhouse gas emissions is oversized. Worldwide, road freight is responsible for about 6 percent of all emissions, and growing. Because tractor-trailers remain on the road for many years, addressing the efficiency of existing fleets is critical. An array of measures can trim energy waste and increase fuel performance, such as anti-idling devices, upgrades that improve aerodynamics and reduce rolling resistance, and automatic cruise-control devices. Added up, they can make a significant dent in fuel use and costs. Efficient Trucks
To have efficient aviation various technologies and operational practices can lower airplane emissions to some degree. They include better engines, wingtips, and light weighting to improve fuel efficiency. (But really we just need to use it less, especially business and government - do they really have to meet in person or can it be achieved online or by phone!). Efficient Aviation
Yes that means Zoom! Telepresence integrates high-performance visual, audio, and network technologies, so people can interact across geographies. It cuts down on travel—especially flying—and its emissions. Nothing beats face-to-face contact, but (we know now with COVID and Lockdowns) telepresence aims to come exceptionally close. It cuts down a whole lot of travel related emissions and Telepresence affords many other benefits: cost savings from avoided travel, less grueling schedules for employees, more productive remote meetings, the ability to make decisions more quickly, and enhanced interpersonal connection across geographies. Telepresence
Electric Bikes #69 Electric bikes are the most environmentally sound means of motorized transport in the world today. They come in many shapes and forms and are accompanied by a small battery-powered motor that can make hills manageable, journeys swifter, and longer trips more viable. As they grow more effective and affordable, e-bikes are increasingly drawing people out of more polluting modes of transportation, such as driving solo. An e-bike’s battery gets its charge from the nearest outlet, tapping into whatever electricity is on hand—from coal-based to hydro-powered. E-bikes have higher emissions than a regular bicycle or simply walking, but they still outperform cars, including electric ones. Electric Bicycles
As well as being great for public transport Rail electrification enables trains to dispatch with dirty diesel-burning engines. When powered by renewables, electric trains can provide nearly emissions-free transport. Electric Trains
Ride Sharing #75
When people share common origins, destinations, or stops enroute, they can ride together. Carpooling uses seats and fuel more efficiently, cutting emissions (and costs). New technologies have accelerated ridesharing’s popularity (and will continue to do so here in NZ:
#5 Reduce use of Fossil Fuels