Nearly 3/4 of Northern Ireland businesses unsure or not planning to reduce emissions

Almost three-quarters of businesses in Northern Ireland are either unsure of how to reduce their carbon emissions or have no intention of doing so, a new government report has found.

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 5:00 pm

The survey of thousands of UK firms in January and February found that 20.2% in Northern Ireland are “not intending” to take green measures in the next year. In addition, 52.7% said they were “not sure” about their plans for reducing the impact of their company’s carbon footprint.

It means 72.9% of firms in the country either have no plans or aren’t sure how to reduce emissions, the highest in the UK and well above the nationwide average of 64.5%.

The findings were revealed in the Business Insight and Conditions Survey. The results from the government survey found some businesses in NI were considering adjusting heating and cooling systems (14.5%), electrifying their vehicle fleet (8%) and installing smart meters (3.4%). But the vast majority are still unclear about what measures to take over the course of the next year.

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Shane Herath, chair of the Eco-Friendly Web Alliance

The ONS survey gathered the views of 8614 businesses from across the UK between January 24 and February 6, including 263 from NI.

The Eco-Friendly Web Alliance (EFWA) campaigns for businesses and organisations across NI to reduce the emissions generated by their websites. It said by making some modest adjustments, most local business owners would be able to make their websites more environmentally friendly, therefore reducing their overall carbon footprint.

That can include taking steps to reduce overall web page size, reducing “bloat” on their websites, compressing images to reduce file size and stopping the auto-playing of videos.

The EFWA’s board of scientific advisors estimates that an environmentally-friendly website should not emit more than one gram of CO2 per page view.

However, the average website generates more than double that, while the internet generally is responsible for 10% of the world’s electricity use.

The EFWA has an accreditation scheme where websites beneath the one gram per page view threshold can gain an official standard.

Websites that run on green energy by using a renewable energy-powered hosting service and take responsibility for their carbon emissions through tree-planting or rewilding can even become “climate positive”.

The organisation also has a calculator which enables website owners to see an estimation of how many grams of CO2 their page generates.

Shane Herath, chair of the Eco-Friendly Web Alliance, said: “Reducing emissions is the great challenge of our time, but it’s clear that the majority of businesses in Northern Ireland need more help and awareness when it comes to action points. Most people don’t think of the internet as something that harms the planet, but when you consider the energy used by devices, data centres and general infrastructure, the amount is huge and rising all the time.

“By making small changes to their websites, business owners across Northern Ireland can make a positive impact on the environment, as these emissions add up with each visit to the site.

“For those which receive a high number of hits, bringing down the CO2 used per page view can actually result in a significant difference.

“We know that customers are favourable towards businesses who take measures to help the planet, so there is much to be gained from businesses who do this.

“The internet causes more carbon emissions that the aviation industry, but because we can’t physically see the emissions it doesn’t tend to be a priority area.

“That needs to change, and by making websites more environmentally friendly businesses can take a positive role as we all try to move towards net zero.”

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