CO2 lockdown-continued: 1 tonne CO2

1 Tonne per person per year. CO2 emissions. That’s where we have to go. Comparable to the R-value of Corona. If we above that, we contaminate the atmosphere too much and it becomes out of control. And it is now more than 10 tons on average , for a Dutchman. And if we count the emissions of products for the Netherlands produced abroad, it is more than 17 tons per person. From there we have to go to 1 tonne. That is about 2.7 kg of emissions per day, on average. What can you do with that? At present, the emissions per car kilometer are approximately 100 grams of CO2. [1] In other words, after 27 kilometers the budget is gone. Either at 13.5 km up and down to work by car it is on. And then nothing left….

No more buying paint to paint that cupboard, no more driving up and down to grandma, or taking the kids to football or tennis (by car), no more hours of Netflix, and nor lights in the evening. To name just a few consequences.

One ucky thing: In principle food does not cause CO2 emissions in certain cases. That is, if it is locally grown, without mechanical means, and you obtain it from the farmer by bicycle. After all, food is pure solar energy, and your cycling energy is derived from that food. Food can therefore be CO2 neutral. Or by eating from your own vegetable garden, if available *. It does however not apply to food from the supermarket, which is produced and transported energy intensively. As an example: Dutch agriculture, on average, puts 7 times as much energy into production as is coming out as food energy, mainly fossil energy and therefore CO2 emissions. And even without the impact of the conversions in the cycle afterwards: storage, processing and supermarket energy.

With Sun and labor we come a long way, but not in the way we are now used for living. After all, even a whats app or email you send has a CO2 impact! Now what then, if supposedly, we go into an acute CO2 lockdown, as I described a few weeks ago?

It turns out possible, and is described in much more detail than I can, by Rosalynd Readhead. She has been living literally on a 1 ton CO2 policy for 9 months, and keeps a close eye on that in reports. This provides tremendously interesting insights. For example, I learned that watching a football game via the tablet and the 3G / 4G network produces about 3.6 kg of CO2… More than the daily budget! Via broadband internet connection it is somewhere between 0.3 and 0.5 kg. A factor of 10 difference. You can follow her on twitter and her own blog. And all that, while she also is in the running to be elected as mayor of London. [2]

Earlier I wrote how Cuba went through such a Lockdown period in the nineties, and what they had to change there in a short time. [3] Not entirely unexpected, now with Corona lockdown, (and at the same time still under a boycott!), again they have to appeal to their creativity and organization in this. With success, The Guardian devoted an article to it last week: “Cuba sets example with successful program to contain corona virus.” [4]. Corona and CO2 lockdown become quit similar under those conditions. One of the secrets: Cuba has the highest number of physicians per inhabitant in the world, it is also free, and is the foundation of health and wellness, especially in times of Corona. Currently all medical students are involved in the battle, it has become a compulsory part of their training.

Colleague Fernando Martirena responded to my CO2 lockdown story, with an overview of measures and circumstances in Cuba , even from before corona, that are already bring the 1 ton CO2 society a lot closer. As he writes:

  • The electricity bill is calculated depending on consumption: households having a minimum consumption (around 250 kW/month, which is fairly good) get a full subsidy of electricity, while the price ladder goes up as you consume more…  to the point that households consuming around 450 kW/month or more pay several times more…  people are encourage to save…
  • Cycling is encouraged, including electric bikes. You can buy a car, but the price of a car is absurdly high, whereas if you want to buy an electric bicycle a slight subsidy is included…
  • If you have a car, like in my case (Renault Clio 1992, 1.9 liter engine) it is better to repair or buy a new engine than replacing the car. Repairing the engine costed me around USD 1,500, while replacing the car would cost 20 times that amount
  • People have severe limitations to flight, not because they can’t but because they cannot afford purchasing tickets. So local tourism is the main tourism in the country; it makes sense, we live in a paradise island, don’t we?
  • We have stores where you can buy good quality, second hand cloth, repair and dress up again. For many people this is their way of dressing “nicely”, a normal human wish…
  • The government has created a program to replace all energy consuming light bulbs by the LED ones. Same thing for all refrigerators, which have been completely replaced, and the old one recycled. This had a huge impact on reduction of energy consumption  without affecting customers. The subsidy to lower price to LED and new units was paid back with energy savings… clever, isn’t it?
  • Besides building new homes, the housing programs have chosen to reuse old abandoned buildings…  which need refurbishing, but are already connected to the networks, and do not demand for extra space.

Now that is something that has not yet penetrated here in Europe: The enormous impact of roads and infrastructure, which is higher per m2 floor than the building itself. When there is once again a proposal for demolition and replacement with new construction, it is always left out of the picture, and the consequences are passed on to the community, and not included in the assessment. While the impact of construction more than doubles! They have known that in Cuba for a long time. Simply, because, partly out of necessity, they focus more on the efficient use of raw materials, as on financial / commercial considerations.

  • Cuba has given an unbelievable push to renewable energy programs: plans are to shift from 5% renewable to 25% in as short as 2025…  PV panels ensure distributed generation, which is also an advantage in the event of a hurricane, where big power lines are cut down…  during last hurricanes, power cuts were less than 24 hours until the service was reestablished; most local generation was made on solar!… further, we are also building huge wind parks…
  • In the midst of the worst financial situation due to US embargo and COVID, Cuba has decided to invest in a program to create a network of 16 decentralized plants to produce a variation of our LC3 cement called “LC2”. This is a combination of calcined clay, gypsum and limestone. You can grind it and blend it on the site with Portland cement and you have LC3 [5]. Clever and low cost solutions, yet decentralized!

Corona, Cuba, and Readhead, at least there are examples of what a 1 tonne CO2 society could look like, and , because of the virus, we suddenly get a much better view of it, we have seen the beginning of what that could mean.

When we actually will experience that ourselves, and not temporarily as with Corona, is the question that I was asked a few times: “Are we going to experience a real CO2 lockdown, and when could that be?” To answer that will require some speculation, of course, but I will give it a try next time.

(picture: Guardian series on air polution)