What is Zero Emissions Day

Zero Emissions Day is an International Day of Action to create a future without air pollution which leads to global warming. Every year on September 21st people around the world take part in various activities, to promote clean air and to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.

This wonderful day was started in 2008 when the founder Ken Wallace launched a website in Nova Scotia Canada calling for September 21st to be a day when no fossil fuels are consumed. The message simply says “Giving our planet one day off a year” and was translated into 12 languages for easy reach of people. On this day the planet gets a rest day from pollution and emissions.

All around the world, this day is used to raise awareness of the need for cleaner energy sources instead of fossil fuels and to encourage businesses and individuals towards their responsibility to protect the environment. Zero Emissions Day is a reminder to each individual that they have a responsibility towards protecting the planet for the future. As a community and a country on this planet, we should drive our society towards more climate-friendly choices by providing specific awareness to the community.

What is the difference between Emission and Zero-emission?

Emissions are substances released into the air and we measure by their concentrations, or parts per million in the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. These long-lived gases trap solar energy and create a “greenhouse effect” in Earth’s climates. Human activities are the main causes of the high concentrations of greenhouse gases as the energy used and production in agriculture and industries. And carbon dioxide is mainly formed by fossil fuel burning.

As most of the countries in the world cause emissions, it has been decided to achieve zero emissions for the betterment of the planet. There is a difference between achieving zero emissions and achieving net zero emissions. Achieving zero emissions means not releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases to the environment. Achieving net zero emissions means that some greenhouse gases are still released but these are offset by removing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing them permanently in soils, plants, or materials Because it would be prohibitively extensive or disruptive to eliminate some sources of emission entirely.

Factors that cause Emissions

  • The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuels from cars, trucks, etc.
  • Electricity Production- The second largest share of greenhouse emissions is generated by electricity production. It includes the emissions from electricity production used by other end-use sectors and industries. Most of the electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels mostly coal and natural gases.
  • Industry- Greenhouse gas emissions from industry primarily come from burning fossil fuels for energy as well as greenhouse gas emissions from certain chemical reactions that are necessary to produce goods from certain materials.
  • Commercial and residential- Includes fossil fuels burned for heat and the use of gases for refrigeration as CFC and cooling in buildings and non-burning emissions and the emissions generated by the electricity usage in residential levels.
  • Agriculture- Greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production.
  • Land use and forestry- As most of the land areas act as a sink or a source of greenhouse gas emissions it can contribute to the level of emissions.

Actions that can be taken to reduce the Emissions.

Currently, the world is transforming into technologies that can generate electricity without emissions using sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, and water power combined with advances in different new technologies. It ensures minimal carbon dioxide emissions and other low-carbon energy sources also can be used. Using energy and equipment that are powered by electricity is also a trend in the world. Many of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions can be replaced with electrical equipment. As an example switching to electric cars can be taken as an initial step towards this process. Using energy more efficiently is also another step that can be taken. More efficient technologies and processes that reduce energy use can also reduce emissions significantly. Switching to electric equipment often improves efficiency.

As another action, we can come up with processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To offset emissions that are too costly or difficult to avoid it is necessary to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it permanently. This can be done with technologies that directly capture carbon dioxide from the air and trap it. So, then it cannot reenter the atmosphere. Certain land management practices also can increase their capacity to absorb and store carbon. Most of the existing technologies can support all these above-mentioned strategies but they will need to be implemented rapidly at a very large scale to achieve zero emissions.

Responsibility towards reducing emissions.

As University students as well as part of the community there can be different practices that can be used to reduce the emission. Mainly can minimize the use of electricity generated by fossil fuels and learn the 5R Concept which means reduce, reuse, refuse, rot, and recycle. Can avoid single-use plastics by buying only the things that are really needed for our consumption, and finding a way to reuse items by repairing or recycling them. People tend to use public transport instead of using private transport to reduce traffic and pollution. Also at the same time they can use bikes as a mode of transport which might be also beneficial to their health. As university students, we can turn off unwanted electronics by unplugging the devices when not in use and also turning off all the lights and electronics for an hour. The Government can support the development of sustainable local businesses with the purpose of reducing the carbon footprint and protecting the environment. Also, can promote businesses that use recycled materials as well as renewable energy.

Local communities can be used to promote tree-planting projects towards the goal of reducing the existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One of the main and important factors towards zero emissions is to educate yourselves and others about climate change and pollution through articles, documentaries, and conversations.

Towards the goal of crafting a planet with zero emissions, each and every one has an individual responsibility. One person can make a difference, but it takes all of us working together to make a real impact. It’s not only becoming aware of the methods to reduce emissions, it’s the practical implementation of them towards the betterment of the future.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

                                      –  Mahatma Gandi-

Written by:

Naduni Ratnayake

2nd year Undergraduate

Biological Science

Faculty of Science  

University of Colombo


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