Everything we do requires energy, but we only really notice when it’s time to pay. Whether for home heating and electricity, gasoline or other consumer goods, bills and invoices increasingly include information about the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the products and services we use.
In France, the commercial and residential sector accounted for 44% of final energy consumption in 2011, compared to 32% for transportation and 21% for the industrial sector. But because of the varied environmental performances of different energy sources, transportation accounted for the biggest portion of carbon dioxide emissions (36%), ahead of the commercial and residential sector (25%) and the manufacturing industries (19%).1
Consumer Energy Use and Emissions
In terms of expense, transportation accounts for the largest portion of consumer energy use. In 2010, French consumers spent €4,400 a year on transportation and €1,590 a year on household energy use, of which more than two thirds for heating2. Consumer emissions follow the same pattern, with transportation accounting for more than half of the total (54% or 3,972 kilograms of carbon dioxide per person), well ahead of housing (30%) and food (16%). The young (18- to 24-year-olds), the old (people over 65) and very-high-income households generally have the biggest carbon footprints.
In France, the commercial and residential sector accounted for 44% of final energy consumption
Numerous measures have been implemented by both governments and businesses to reduce consumers’ energy consumption and consequently their emissions.
- Housing: Aware that information is the key to effective action, the French government has made it mandatory to obtain an energy performance certificate (EPC) whenever a residential, office or commercial building is built, sold or placed on the rental market. Issued by an independent expert, the EPC estimates the building’s annual energy consumption and its impact in terms of greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... emissions. It also provides recommendations for improving the building’s energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system..., but there is no legal obligation on the owner to carry these out (See Close-Up: "At Home: Energy Performance Certificates").
- Transportation: Measures to inform consumers have also been introduced in the transportation sector, where every new car must now carry an energy efficiency label indicating its fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... consumption and carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer. Tax incentives, such as a feebate scheme, have also been introduced to encourage buyers to opt for more environmentally responsible models (See Close-up: "On the Move: More Environmentaly Friendly Transportation).
- Consumer Goods: In France, 168 companies participated in a trial between July 2011 and July 2012 to test the idea of introducing carbon or environmental labels on consumer goods. The issue is complex because it involves assessing each product’s entire life cycle, not just its production but also the extraction of the raw materials used to make it, as well as transportation, packaging and recyclingAny waste treatment process that uses materials from identical or similar end-of-life products or manufacturing waste to produce new products. (See Close-Up: "On the Shelf: Carbon and Environmental Labeling").
On average, a French consumer spends €4,400 a year on transportation and €1,590 a year on household energy use.
Improving energy efficiency isn’t just a job for governments and industries. Consumers are also getting into the act.
When multiplied across the population, a few simple habits adopted by a well-informed consumer can have a major impact on energy performance, in such areas as housing, transportation and consumer goods (See Close-Up: "In Our Daily Lives: Everyday Energy-Saving Tips").
(1) ADEME (French only)
(2) ADEME (French only)