Each Canadian Challenged to Cut Personal Greenhouse Gases
OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, April 2, 2004 (ENS) - The government of Canada has calculated that each Canadian produces more than five metric tons (tonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions every year - sitting idling in traffic, switching on an incandescent lightbulb, taking out the trash. In total, these small energy expenditures release greenhouse gases that represent more than 25 percent of Canada's total emissions.
Now the government is asking Canadians to take on a new challenge – the One-Tonne Challenge. "It's a call to help protect our climate by using less energy and fewer resources in our daily activities and reducing our individual greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne," Environment Canada says on a new webpage devoted to encouraging emissions reductions.
The volume of one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions would fill a two-story, three-bedroom house. Multiply that by the population of Canada - roughly 31,629,000 people - and it adds up to a lot of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorinated carbons, and sulphur hexafluoride.
Canada has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which requires that industrialized countries reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they emit by an average of 5.2 percent during the period 2008 through 2012. The Canadian government is preparing residents to do their part by cutting personal emissions by 20 percent to help the country meet its target goal.
Environment Canada employee Steve Szabo is doing his part. He switched to wind power and reduced his greenhouse gas emissions by more than six metric tons.
"It was that easy," says Szabo. "Green power is now available in several provinces in Canada and it's definitely the simplest, quickest and least expensive way to reduce your emissions. In fact, it's emission free."
Steve buys his electricity from Nova Scotia Power, the province's electrical utility. All the green power they sell comes from wind turbines located in the province. Although Steve pays a monthly premium of $25 to get all of his electricity emission free, he says it balances out in his favor. "When I compare the extra cost of wind power against all the savings I've made from other forms of energy reduction, I'm still ahead financially."
Driving a car, contributes about half of those five metric tons of greenhouse gases each Canadian produces each year. The government is encouraging people to consider driving less and using public transit, car pooling, or walking.
Many Canadians are already out of their cars. Over 383,000 people work in the central part of Toronto, and roughly 53 percent take public transit to work; 12 percent walk and eight percent cycle. Close to 30,000 bicycle trips are made to and from the central core on a typical day.
"The environment is big concern for us and the effects of climate change are clearly visible around here," says Whitehorse dance instructor Andrea Simpson Fowler, who is challenging four other families to see who can cut the most from their greenhouse gas emissions level.
"I want to protect what we have and I also want to set a good example for my two children," she says. "They are very keen to win."
Using energy more efficiently in heating, cooling and appliances will reduce fuel consumption and emissions, Environment Canada urges. Air leakage represents between 25 and 40 per cent of the heat loss from an older home. Sealing air leaks, replacing an older furnace and turning down the thermostat three degrees at night in the winter will improve a home's energy efficiency and can help save about 25 percent on home energy bills.
A 2002 Energy Star qualified refrigerator uses less than half the electricity of a unit built 10 years ago and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 0.2 of a ton each year.
Environment Canada says proudly that the government has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent since 2000 by making vehicle fleets and buildings more energy efficient. To date, 7,000 federal buildings have been retrofitted, saving C$24 million a year in energy costs.
For those who like to do the numbers, Environment Canada is offering a Greenhouse Gas Calculator online at: http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/onetonne/calculator/english/
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