The inter-governmental group of experts on global warming, GIEC, has warned that unprecedented transformations are needed to contain global warming at 1.5°C, comparable to the pre-industrial era. All sectors are concerned, it said, including ordinary citizens. “Everyone has the possibility, according to their means, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” climatologist and Université catholique de Louvain (UCL – Catholic University of Louvain) professor, Jean-Pascal Van Ypersele, said.
According to a GIEC special report published on Monday, the world needs to make “fast” and “unprecedented” transformations to limit climate change to 1,5°C, the threshold beyond which the risk of extreme climatic phenomena is significantly higher. While greenhouse-gas reduction targets need to be revised upward in all sectors, citizens also have their role to play. “We must stop seeing the atmosphere as a garbage can,” Van Ypersele said.
Each resident of Belgium generates 10 tonnes of CO2 per year. “Homes represent an important source of emissions because of the heating,” he commented. “This can be reduced, especially when one is the owner, through insulation, better ventilation or optimum orientation.”
To reduce the carbon footprint, ”public transport, walking or soft mobility also need to be prioritized,” adds the former vice-president of the GIEC. “And if you really need a car, opt for a small vehicle and use it as seldom as possible if you do not have an electric car.” Another option is car-pooling.
Red meat is very costly to the planet. “When we eat less of it, that also allows us to reduce our emissions,” according to the climatologist.
Saving is also a means of action. “In Belgium, billions of euros are sleeping in accounts,” Van Ypersele said. “For those who have the means to do so, it’s possible to redirect that money towards sustainable investment funds, whose yield is sometimes better.”
In this election year, the climatologist is also urging citizens to “reflect” and “vote for people willing to commit to the necessary transformations”. He adds that “it is possible to preserve the climate for the present and future generations. That requires laws, standards and a paradigm shift.”
Among his priorities, Van Ypersele recommends introducing a scale of carbon tariffs as in France or Sweden. Income from this tax can serve to “counterbalance the social effects so that less wealthy people do not suffer their impact and to invest in infrastructure such as public transport.”
“This idea was the subject of a wide-ranging debate in Belgium, which was closed in late June,” Van Ypersele said. “The ball is now in the politicians’ court.”