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Environment: treading lightly on the Earth
Environment: treading lightly on the Earth

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1.5 Summary of Section 1

The main learning points from Section 1 are:

  • The carbon footprint is the annual mass of ‘carbon’ emissions that result from the activities of an individual or a group, from an event or providing a product or service. To be complete, the carbon footprint should include the direct and indirect emissions of CO2 and CO2 equivalent including other GHGs (mainly methane and nitrous oxide). However, for simplicity, carbon footprints based on CO2 emissions alone are often used.
  • The carbon footprint is an environmental indicator that is concerned mainly with climate change. It measures other environmental impacts, such as water pollution, biodiversity and resource depletion, indirectly or not at all.
  • Emissions embedded in imported food, goods and services are a major part of the carbon footprint of individuals and households in many developed countries, notably the UK where this proportion is expected to increase.
  • From a consumption perspective, individuals and households are directly or indirectly responsible for creating or triggering 80% to 90% of the total carbon footprint of developed countries. Hence, reducing the carbon footprint arising from individual and household activities and consumption is very important in addressing climate change.

Next you will look at the variations in carbon footprints depending on factors such as where you live, the type of home you live in, income, values and lifestyle.