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

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2.4 Summary of Section 2

The main learning points from Section 2 are:

  • There are different ways of calculating the carbon footprints of individuals and households. Excluding the emissions embedded in imports and exports, the mean territorial UK footprint is about 7 tonnes of CO2 per person per year. But more realistically, including imports and exports and other GHGs, the mean consumption-based UK footprint is about 14 to 16 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person per year.
  • The main components of individual and household carbon footprints in developed countries are: car and air travel; household gas and electricity use; the consumption of food and other goods; and the use of private and public services.
  • The carbon footprints of individuals and households vary widely within countries, related especially to people’s incomes, household sizes and lifestyles. For example, the carbon footprint per person of people living in UK households with the highest 10% of incomes is about three times that of those with the lowest 10%.
  • The carbon footprint also varies between countries, by amounts depending on how it is calculated. For example, the mean territorial carbon footprint of an inhabitant of China is now similar to that of someone living in the UK, but if the emissions embedded in imports and exports are included, then the mean UK footprint is about three times that of a Chinese person.
  • There are wide variations in carbon footprints, especially between wealthy, middle-income and poorer people and countries.
  • It is fairer to compare countries on mean carbon footprints per person than on total emissions, although this obscures the differences between the footprints of rich and poor people within each country.

Next you will measure your own carbon footprint.