The main international celebrations of World Environment Day 2008 was held in New Zealand (one of five countries that have pledged to become “climate neutral”) in the city of Wellington. The slogan was ‘Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy’. Recognizing that climate change is becoming the defining issue of our era, UNEP wanted countries, companies and communities to focus on greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce them. The theme highlighted use of  resources and initiatives that promote low carbon economies and life-styles, such as improved energy efficiency, alternative energy sources, forest conservation and eco-friendly consumption.

Our dependence on carbon-based energy has caused a significant build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We don’t just burn carbon in the form of fossil fuels. Throughout the tropics, valuable forests are being felled for timber and making paper, for pasture and arable land, and, increasingly, for plantations to supply a growing demand for biofuels. This further manifestation of our carbon habit not only releases vast amounts of CO2, it also destroys a valuable resource for absorbing atmospheric carbon, further contributing to climate change.

Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting economic and political stability all demand the same solution: we must kick the carbon habit. Just under half of personal emissions come from things under individuals’ control, such as how much we drive and fly and heat and power our homes.

Of the remaining 50 per cent, about half comes indirectly from powering the places where we work, 10 per cent more from maintaining infrastructure and government and about 20 per cent during the production of goods that people buy including food.

Some quite simple measures can more than halve the daily emissions of an individual, with even bigger cuts possible if sectors like power suppliers and automobile makers as well as aviation and appliance manufacturers contributed more to the greening of global lifestyles.

The message of world environment day 2008 was that we are all part of the solution. Whether you are an individual, an organization, a business or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.