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Personal Carbon Footprints – how they shape up across the globe

by Jo Hand | 18 June 2021

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Personal carbon footprints around the world

Average personal carbon footprints vary enormously, from a tonne or two per year for many of the world’s population, to a global average of 5 tonnes per person, up to 9 tonnes in the UK and into the teens in north American and Australia. That’s why we have just launched country specific and global versions of Giki Zero.

So, now if you live in the USA, you can get state level personal carbon footprinting – we think this is a world first! If you live in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK, you can also get country specific data. And if you live elsewhere, use the global data, and by adding information and choosing your local electricity grid you’ll get a personalised footprint and some steps to reduce it.

We have included adjustments for many of the world’s energy grids because they can vary significantly, depending on what is used to create electricity. France has a very low carbon footprint for electricity, due to its use of nuclear power, whereas the Dutch grid is heavier in gas usage for electricity production. Australian footprints tend to be significantly higher, due to a heavy reliance on coal to generate electricity.

There are regional variants across lifestyle areas in terms of carbon footprints. For example, the typical Australian diet tends to be rich in meat and fish, which increases the carbon footprint. In the UK, Brits have a higher home heating footprint than many European countries because of the weather being rather cold, and also people from the UK tend to fly more for holidays.. The French, Spanish and Italians fly the least. USA footprints tend to be larger because of larger cars, which tend to travel further, using more fuel. Houses also tend to be bigger, so require more heating and cooling.

Unless we know our personal carbon footprint it’s hard to plan how we can reduce it to the 2.5 tonnes that we all need to achieve by 2030. That’s why we’ve gone global with Giki Zero.

Connecting carbon footprints to climate clocks

The resulting difference in carbon footprints across some of the wealthiest nations in the world means that each country has also has a different climate clock. Climate clocks are a crucial way of helping us understand how long we have to transform our footprints to remain below the threshold of 1.5 degrees temperature rise.

The global climate clock shows the world has eight years and five months at current levels of carbon emissions before the carbon budget runs out, resulting in a failure to keep global warming under 1.5 degree Celsius. However, Giki’s analysis shows that wealthy G7 countries are using up their carbon budgets at twice the rate of the global average, due to larger personal carbon footprints.

If everyone lived like people in the G7 countries, we would only have four years and one month until the climate clock runs out. That’s enough time for just two more Olympics, one US Presidential Election and one World Cup.

This highlights the urgency to act now in the wealthiest nations.

G7 climate clocks

USA3 years 1 months
Canada3 years 2 months
Japan4 years 2 months
UK4 years 6 months
Germany4 years 6 months
France5 years 1 months
Italy5 years 2 months
Global8 years 5 months

In contrast, if we all lived like the poorest 50% of the world’s population we’d have 56 years and 6 months left on the climate clock. Bhutan is the only country in the world where the climate clock runs forever because they are carbon negative.

Commenting on the findings, the UK’s Government-appointed High-Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping said: “Giki’s new research shows just how pressing it is for countries in the G7 to take action now. The climate clock is ticking faster in these nations. We must act urgently to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, which means translating commitments into immediate actions.”

Go to Giki Zero