Worldwide reduction of Carbon Emissions on 21st of September

Zero Emissions Day

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Julia Widmann

Content Marketing Manager

Zero Emissions Day, also known as Car Free Day, takes place annually on 21 September. With the words "Give our planet one day off", Ken Wallace launched the day in Canada in 2008 and since then the initiative has been heard internationally. The idea behind Zero Emissions Day is to raise awareness for and minimise the enormous impact that the use of fossil fuels has on the environment and the global climate. For this reason, 21 September is intended to mark a day of pause for the Earth by renouncing the use of oil, natural gas and coal as far as possible.

Man-made greenhouse effect through fossil fuels

Coal, natural gas and oil are still considered the world's most important energy sources, but at the same time they are responsible for almost 90% of global CO2 emissions. The presence of water vapour and CO2 in the atmosphere is responsible for the Earth's natural greenhouse effect. Without this, life on Earth would not be possible, as it ensures a near-ground temperature of about 15°C, which would otherwise be about -18°C. Since the use of fossil fuels, however, the greenhouse effect has been intensified by an excessively high CO2 content in the atmosphere. It is practically impossible to completely bind the CO2 released by the use of fossil fuels back to the earth's crust, which means that CO2 levels in the atmosphere are already 40% higher than before the industrial revolution. As a consequence, this man-made greenhouse effect has a strong impact on global warming and thus bears the main responsibility for climate change.

Minimising CO2 emissions

Since 1960, global CO2 emissions have been increasing every year. While in 1960 a total of 9386.93 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted, in 2019 the figure was 36702.5 million tonnes. By 2050, the figure is expected to reach 43.1 billion tonnes. Only in 2020 was there a 6% decrease in emissions. This was due to the Covid-19 related reduction in driving. Almost half of the transport-related emissions are attributable to private road transport, whereas rail transport is only responsible for 1%. This illustrates the emissions reduction that would be possible if private passenger transport were shifted to alternatives such as rail or bicycle. On Zero Emissions Day, everyone should do without their car according to their own possibilities and travel by train, on foot or by bicycle. In the long run, e-cars and car sharing are also a possibility to save CO2. However, private passenger transport does not only refer to the private sector. The journeys made by car before, during and after work also account for a large proportion of transport-related emissions. The topic of saving emissions in transport is also addressed at our Glacier Climate Week, both at the "Mobility" workshop with Punkt vor Strich, which deals with sustainable mobility alternatives, and at the Connect event "Driving Sustainability" by Volvo and ÖAMTC, which refers to the conversion of company cars to e-cars.

However, CO2 emissions can and must be reduced not only in the area of driving, but also in the area of housing and buildings in order to achieve the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Climate Agreement. Most emissions from private households are due to space heating, which is still largely produced from fossil fuels. Here, too, savings are possible. In the short term, through conscious heating and saving hot water and electricity. In the long term, by switching to renewable energies.

Alternatives to fossil fuels

In 2019, alternative energy sources such as biomass, wood, biogas, hydropower, wind power and photovoltaics could save about, for example in Austria 29.6 million tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalents) .

Switching to environmentally friendly alternatives is a process. Zero Emissions Day can serve as the beginning of this process and show everyone the possibilities we have as individuals and collectives to save CO2 emissions. However, it is also important to ensure that the renunciation does not lead to a so-called rebound effect. Figures confirm that CO2 emissions worldwide were higher in December 2020 than in December of the previous year. It can often be observed that saved resources are used more elsewhere, or that in retrospect a wasteful use of resources that had to be dispensed with is observed. The meaning behind the savings must therefore be made clear and the savings must be pursued out of one's own motivation.

This requires knowledge about climate change, the connections and the impact we as individuals and collectives have on the global climate. And this is where Glacier comes in. Glacier's mission is to bring climate awareness into the DNA of every company by providing climate education to employees, turning them into in-house climate experts. Reducing CO2 emissions is possible in every work sector, starts with the individual and can be tracked from the moment you decide how to come into work.

So what can we do concretely on Zero Emissions Day?

A few examples:

- Give up the car and go by public transport or by bike.

- Save hot water (take a shower instead of a bath and turn off the water when using shampoo).

- Save electricity (switch off lights, use a kettle instead of a cooker, use cooking lids)

- Heat consciously

- Recycle rubbish properly (e.g. with a composter)

- Do without plastic

- Take your own bags shopping

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