The UK recently announced that it is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a least 80% by the year 2050. This promise follows the introduction of the 2008 Climate Change Act, which was the first legislation of its kind to set a legally binding climate change target.
The government hopes to achieve a large proportion of their emission reduction target between 2013-2020 by setting budgets for the amount of emissions that the UK is permitted to generate within a certain period of time and utilising the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
Image: Dirk Duckhorn
Although the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is completely understandable and agreed upon by many, it isn't something that can be achieved by banging a government gavel. The initiative will require individuals all across the country to do their part in order to cut carbon emissions by 80% - so how can the average household help?
How will we do it?
Perhaps the easiest area to tackle in the battle to lower our emissions is transport. There are currently over 34 million vehicles on the roads of Great Britain (over 80% of which are cars) which generate 22% of all UK carbon dioxide emissions. As carbon dioxide emissions are a huge contributor towards climate change, tackling transport should be considered as a first step to significantly reducing our emissions.
Electric cars have evolved over recent years, moving away from the uncomfortable and embarrassing G-Wiz to sophisticated modern models that are more widely available such as the Toyota Prius hybrid or Nissan Leaf. This evolution has led to an increase in ownership as electric vehicle sales doubled in 2013.
When we're not on the move, a large amount of our emissions come from energy use in the home as we rely on polluting fuels such as coal and gas. By introducing renewable sources such as solar panels, we can also take a chunk out of our greenhouse gas contributions.
Image: Phil and the Hounds
Energy experts from Imperial College London hope to see 10 million homes install solar panels by 2020 to reach our renewable energy potential. If this goal is achieved, it is estimated that these panels could generate up to 40% of Britain's electricity on a sunny day. On average, each household using solar panels to generate electricity save 1.8 tonnes of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.
Although both electric cars and solar panels require a large up-front investment of several thousand pounds, the government aims to deliver a major reduction in emissions by 2020, allowing plenty of time to arrange a long-term payment plan.
How will we benefit?
The benefit of going green is obvious in the grand scheme of things: reducing harmful emissions to protect the planet. However, what impact will this have closer to home?
As well as being a part of an environmentally friendly project, those cutting their carbon emissions can also benefit from more pounds in their pocket.
For example, the government offers a 25% grant worth up to £5,000 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, therefore immediately reducing the cost of buying a new car. The initial sale isn't the only time when an eco-friendly car can save pennies - the cost of driving a normal petrol or diesel car can be up to six times more than running an electric car. Electric cars are exempt from road tax and also escape the central London congestion charge which can cost up to £2,400 a year.
Installing solar panels are another way to make money out of helping the environment. Although the initial installation can cost up to £7,400, the average household can save £750 a year in energy costs meaning that the system will pay for itself after 10 years. As standard solar panel systems are estimated to last a minimum of 25 years, a household can then expect to save a further £11,250 after the cost of installation is paid off. Excess generated electricity can also be sold back to the grid for extra cash.
The government outline in their plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions that as well as reducing carbon levels in the UK, this initiative should also mean that the country becomes less dependent on fossil fuels, reducing the public's exposure to increasing energy prices.
Over the next 46 years we can expect to see serious steps taken towards creating a safer and more sustainable environment not only for future generations but for us now.