What can we do?
Mitigation – reducing carbon emissions
The majority of the UK’s emissions (85% in 2011) arise from our production and consumption of energy – whether that’s driving cars, manufacturing goods or simply boiling a kettle. Emissions can be lowered by becoming energy efficient and by switching to low-carbon fuels. Both will be necessary to meet UK carbon targets, along with action to tackle non-energy emissions.
To achieve this action is needed on all levels, from government, to industry and business, and to household.
The Welsh Government published the Climate Change Strategy for Wales in 2010, in response to the UK Government’s Climate Change Act 2008, and set the following targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions:
- Reduce emissions by 3% per year from 2011, against a baseline of average emissions between 2006-2010;
- Achieve at least a 40% reduction in emissions in Wales by 2020, compared to 1990 levels;
- Achieve at least an 80% reduction in emissions in Wales by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
- The 3% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is focused predominantly on the transport, residential, business, agriculture and land use, public, and waste sectors and excludes heavy industry and power generation.
The 2014 Annual Climate Change report show that Wales is making good progress towards achieving the 3% annual reduction target, particularly in the business, resource efficiency and waste sectors, however a continued and increased effort across sectors will be required to achieve the 40% target.
To see how the UK as a whole is progressing with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, visit the UK’s Committee for Climate Change website.
Using energy more efficiently is an essential part of our strategy for lowering carbon emissions in the UK and in Wales. Everyone has a role to play, whether as a consumer or in business. There will always be a demand for energy, but the way we use it, and the amount we use, needs to change. In most cases, it is possible to save energy and save money at the same time.
There are a variety of ways consumers can save money and energy at the same time via low cost measures including insulation, replacement of lights, appliances and boiler for more efficient ones; also consider reducing car journeys by using public transport, walking or cycling and purchasing more efficient vehicles.
Office buildings have scope for better insulation or more efficient heating systems upgrading appliances to more efficient ones and introducing better energy management. The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme encourages large private and public sector organisations to develop energy management strategies that promote a better understanding of energy usage.
The Carbon Trust has a number of guides to help businesses to realise these opportunities.
Information and advice is also available through Resource Efficient Wales
Despite energy-efficiency efforts, our modern economy will still be faced with the challenge of significant energy demand. Wales is currently powered mainly by fossil fuel power-stations, which are major sources of carbon release. A move toward low- or ideally no-carbon fuels is therefore crucial to reduce our emissions.
There are many opportunities to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We can increase the amount of electricity generated through low-carbon renewable technologies, relying less on gas and coal; and we can generate heat via low-carbon technologies such as ground-source, or air-source, heat pumps (capturing heat from the ground or the air). As a nation, we are rich in sustainable resources – such as wind, hydro sources such as river, wave and tidal, solar, and geothermal – which should be further invested in.
Greater use of electricity (e.g. through electric vehicles or electric heat pumps) generated from low-carbon sources also provides a route to decarbonisation.
In powering our vehicles, there is potential for some blending of biofuels with petrol and diesel. Longer-term, the use of electricity or hydrogen produced from low-carbon sources offers an opportunity for more radical decarbonisation of road transport.
Click here for further information on low-carbon technologies.
On a more local level home and business owners should seek to:
- Change their utility providers to sustainably sourced energy suppliers.
- Consider installing renewable technology to their buildings, if appropriate, such as solar PV and solar thermal, hydroelectricity, wind turbines and geothermal.
Adaptation – adapting to the impacts of climate change
The Climate Change Strategy for Wales recognises that, despite efforts to reduce GHG emissions, it is not possible to entirely avoid the impacts of climate change because of past and present emissions.
The current global effort is to keep the global average temperature increase to under 2°C; beyond 2°C we pass the threshold of ‘dangerous’ climate change – that is climate change with very significant impacts, and where feedbacks in natural systems leading to greater emissions are triggered.
Global temperature increase will cause changes to global weather, bringing more frequent and more extreme weather events such as storms, coastal and river floods as well as droughts. There is evidence of this already happening:
- Around 2000 people died in the UK from the 2003 heatwave
- Over the past 20 years, severe flooding and weather across the UK have cost on average £1.5 billion per year in insurance claims.
- In 2007 widespread flooding affected 55,000 homes, killed 13 people and cost the economy £3.2 billion
Welsh Government’s Climate Change Strategy outlines an adaptation framework for how Wales can prepare and adapt to the likely future impacts which include flooding, severe weather events and sea level rise. We also need to look at potential opportunities – making organisations and individuals more resilient to the changes to come.
The Commission’s Adaptation sub-group is working with the Welsh Government to develop Sectoral Adaptation Plans for the Natural Environment, Communities, Infrastructure, Business & Tourism and Health.
For further information on how the UK is preparing, click here.