Eight Ideas to Reduce Carbon Emissions

“We’ll be carbon neutral by 2050,” said man who will be dead before 2050. We cannot wait 30 years to reach our goals.

Climate Conscious
Published in
8 min readJan 23, 2020


Plastic consumption

To achieve as near to neutral plastic consumption as possible, we need to rethink recycling. It feels good to read that your plastic bottle is recyclable, but truth is it gets shipped off to South-East Asia and possibly/possibly not used again or burnt.

Plastic is excellent for almost all types of packaging. It’s also very difficult to recycle. And almost impossible to recycle endlessly.

Instead of recycling, we need to implement a system to reuse plastics and ban all plastics that are not reusable. In supermarkets, this would mean any item that cannot be restocked needs to be banned. Think plastic film for meat, bags for fruit and veg, toilet roll, bread, ready meals, cheese.

Things that can be reused — toothpaste, shampoo, water and juice bottles, thick plastic zip bags — can stay, but go through a different recycling process.

When a person bins this type of plastic, it is sent back to the business to be reused. If a business does not reuse at least 80 percent of all its recycled stock (which will be sorted at a recycling plant), it is banned from using plastic.

No item requires plastic. Paper, cardboard, tin, aluminium, metal, and glass are all alternatives. Businesses spend millions on R&D; they will be able to come up with a solution.

Public transport turnaround

Having a car in parts of the country is still a massive convenience. As someone who doesn’t drive, I find myself hopping into the passenger seat a lot because I can’t be arsed to walk 45 minutes or wait for a bus for about as long.

We need public transportation to be good enough that people say “why would I drive when…” This is the case in some areas of the country. My brother gets buses everywhere in Edinburgh because they’re everywhere, so are the trams.

However, in many towns and villages across the country, public transport is terrible. There’s not enough of it, it’s not clean and it’s not convenient.

Here are four steps to improve public transport: massively increase bus routes, invest heavily in electric buses, increase rail routes, electrify all rail lines.

Buses need to be so ubiquitous that drivers become annoyed because they hog up too much of the road. In Gateshead, there are several routes that connect to Newcastle and are excellent; I’m never waiting more than 20 minutes at a stop. That’s what all routes should aim towards.

This does come with a caveat. Without full electric bus stock, it’s hard to advocate for a significant increase in bus routes and times, because if there are three people in a 1990's diesel bus for 25 miles, I’d imagine it’s worse for the environment than three cars built after 2016.

For trains, we need to reverse the Beeching cuts. Having a direct route from a major city to all towns in the area is a necessity; it would make commuting to work from a small town slightly bearable.

There are plenty of routes closed in 1970 that are commercially viable, but the re-openings shouldn’t be about viability; they should be about giving people the option. Trains, when run on electric, are incredibly efficient even with a low amounts of passengers, so they shouldn’t have to prove profitability.

Increases in capacity on main lines (through HS2, HS3), in collaboration with broad increases in local rail lines, would mean far more passengers. It would also, hopefully, lead to a decrease in ticket prices, as capacity improvements leads to more empty seats.

Also, ban all internal flights. Nobody needs to get a flight to London from anywhere in the UK, especially with rail infrastructure improvements.

Electric cars for everybody

Due to the amount of pollution cars emit, it is imperative that we move to electric only in the next 10 years. To do this, the government needs to make the value of owning an electric car much better than an alternative.

There are three ways to achieve this: higher incentives (£8,000 — £10,000), free installation of electric charging at home and a percentage payment of all electric charging costs (between 30–50% of monthly bills).

The government should also look to massively increase the amount of spots on roads (especially motorways) where electric vehicles can charge. This should alleviate the worries about electric car range.

Instead of banning diesel cars at a certain point in the very far future, ban all non-electric by 2030. It gives car manufacturers a ten year warning and provides most car owners with enough time to move to electric.

This ban includes trucks. There may be worries that trucks do not have enough range, however truck drivers need regular breaks and with charging spots all across the country, lack of range shouldn’t be an issue.

Electric houses

You know what goes nicely with an electric car? An electric house, outfitted with solar panels and battery storage. Some homes already run fully electric, but most still rely on gas for the hob, heating and hot water.

We need to transition away from gas and to ensure this, the government should ban all gas boilers by 2030. This would push construction firms to build houses that run 100 percent electric.

By having solar panels and battery storage, UK homes could become self-reliant during the hotter months of the year. It also reduces the amount of unclean energy provided by the big six.

Incentives to add solar panels to roofs could be one way of getting more self-reliant houses. The government could also provide the big six with incentives to partner with customers and install solar panels and battery storage.

Wind, solar and…nuclear (for a bit)

The government needs to make serious inroads in the next five years to ensure that the UK’s energy mix is 100 percent clean. 42 percent of our mix still comes from coal, oil and gas, only 1.5 percent less than in 2018.

Offshore wind farms look to be the best way to add new renewable energy. The government should look at vastly expanding the amount of available space for energy providers to build wind farms, and provide incentives for farmers that provide land for wind turbines.

Importing clean energy from Nordic countries and others may be a way to reduce our reliance on gas, which counts for 38 percent of our mix.

While there are risks with nuclear, it may be a necessity for the next decade. We should not invest heavily in it, but retain current sites and approve new ones (hopefully with a bit more sound logic than Hinkley Point) while we transition fully to renewables, which currently make up 38 percent of our mix.

Free range, organic farming only

You know why people eat shit tons of meat? Because it’s cheap.

The problem is there’s a small demographic of people that: A) care about the animal’s life prior to slaughter B) are not vegetarian / vegan.

This is what allows whole chickens to be sold at £3 and beef to be cheap enough to eat every single day. Hardly anyone is spending double the price on the promise that the animal was fed and treated well.

It’s not the consumers fault however, the fault lies squarely on supermarkets and suppliers that have rushed to the bottom. We can fix this by mandating higher ethic standards in farming and distribution.

Free range, high quality feed and organic farming should be compulsory. This would have multiple benefits: an end to industrial factory farming, better lives and diets for the animals, and a reduction in the amount of meat bought.

This goes for all products that use animals, so milk, eggs, butter.

We are already seeing the introduction of faux meat to supermarkets. When it becomes ordinary, faux will be much cheaper to manufacture than an animal to raise and slaughter. Once that occurs, meat will become a luxury. This proposal simply moves the process ahead a few years.

With less intensive farming, ecosystems in the countryside should begin to repopulate. Farmers should be provided with more incentives to improve wildlife in and around their farms.

Tree planting, ecosystem rebuilding

Like I said in the previous point, farmers should be given new roles to rebuild ecosystems ruined by intensive farming and create new ones.

Alongside ecosystem rebuilding and wildlife re-population, there should be a national push to plant more trees. The hope for climate activists is not that we get to zero carbon emissions, but we actually turn back the tide and improve the planet for generations to come.

That requires more trees and more dense ecosystems. Like most of my points, this is not just an environment boost. Planting more trees gives us more parks, more nature reserves and more green-spaces. It improves the look of a town to have more trees everywhere, just look at Vancouver (above) or Oslo.

Government activism

While the seven ideas above are valid and should be implemented to reach carbon neutral status, it is not going to make a lot of difference worldwide if China, the United States, and India continue to pollute the world.

Governments committed to protecting the world need to fight mega polluters as they would hostile nations, with sanctions and activism. It simply isn’t good enough to tell them off then continue to purchase and sell goods to them.

While we do lose our large trading power when we leave the EU, we can still work with the EU to deter bad actors. We can also use our leverage as one of the most robust financial capitals of the world to influence countries — well, I hope we can.

To end on a happy note…

What’s great about ideas for reducing carbon emissions is they aren’t miserable; they have benefits beyond saving the planet.

Imagine a country where buses are far cheaper and more available, where trains can take you all across the country without costing as much as a flight, where every town is full of greenery and the cost of living is substantially lower because you aren’t paying for petrol or gas every month.

This is to many people a dream. And if it sounds like a nightmare, it might be time to rethink your values and come to terms with the fact we’re living on the same rock that is going to be unlivable in a few generations.



Climate Conscious

Analyst at Business of Apps. Previously RT Insights, Digital Trends, ReadWrite. Leeds and Lincoln Uni alumni