Hey Ho, Lets go
Hey Ho, to Net Zero
I worry about the climate. I am concerned with our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions and I worry about green washing. But how do I apply all these concerns to myself and does that matter? Do I matter?
The first question I asked was how I can calculate my own and my households total carbon footprint? There are plenty of calculators, but wanting a more in-depth analysis I enrolled in a five week course at https://www.thecarbonauts.com/. The Carbonauts' Big 5 looks at renewable energy, diet and food waste, electric vehicles, flying and offsets. You calculate your footprint at the start and the end of the course and map change. Honesty becomes a necessary condition, but accuracy can be difficult given the nuances of carbon production. They talk about a JFZ, a ‘judgement free zone’ as to how any single person approaches their personal footprint but there’s a natural bias towards those who wish to reduce their footprint. Then they ask we spread the word!
Some of the ways to reduce your footprint are easy and obvious, some are difficult, and some requires real change. Many are free, many cost, but everything requires a decision to be made … Will I make that change in my life? Will I check on the availability of “greener options”? How in depth will I go to reduce greenwashing? How much am I prepared to pay?
In a world where net zero is becoming a necessary brand, it becomes more and more difficult to separate the forest from the cleared trees.
Each decision can involve all the elements I mention above, for example have I checked my power bill and does it offer renewable power or offsets? My utility offers offsets at no additional cost so I tick that box. Easy. What about the better option of renewable power? Should I change appliances from natural gas to electricity powered by renewables? Should I change my diet to reduce food waste? Should I compost? How do I reduce the meat in my diet? Should I buy an EV? (I owned one but made the decision to sell a diesel mid-sized SUV. That doesn’t change the overall footprint but it changes mine (and used car prices have been driven higher by the supply chain issues of the pandemic). Does that matter? Does it make a difference? Do I matter?
There are two areas where there is no question in my mind of what can be done.
I for one chose flights primarily with the view that I will make it safely to my destination. Planes have a decent safety record using fossil fuels, so I am afraid my only options are to fly less (which I have done spectacularly well in the last few years!) or buy the carbon offsets that airlines offer. I believe every first and business class seat should automatically include the carbon offset in the price. I also believe flights booked on frequent flyer points should do the same. The option should be for the passenger to opt out of this purchase not to opt in. Airlines should include the carbon offset earlier in the sale process not as the last part of the purchase, post the “do you want fries with that section?” (when they try and upsell with hire cars, accommodation, etc.,) Companies’ ESG policies should always involve purchasing the offset on a business trip. Does your company do this? Do you ask? I haven’t historically, but I will, going forward.
Lies, damned lies and statistics aka Do I matter?
The bigger decision is the personal decision of ‘do I matter’? According to the Australian Prime Minister, Australia is too small to really matter (Australia is just over 1% of global emissions if you don’t take exports into account). That still ranks Australia in the top 15, but then it can get complicated. Should we rank by total emissions, by emissions per capita, should we include exports? Australia soars up the table to rank 6thin the world on a per capita basis, over three times the global average.
My personal carbon footprint is 9.5 e^-8 of Australia’s total and that is above the national average (I tried to err conservatively on the side of more carbon in my calculations). If I take the Government’s argument on face value, how do I matter? As ANUs Will Steffen argues, the same case can apply to personal tax. Does it make any difference if I don’t pay my personal tax? Not really, unless everyone decides not to pay as they don’t matter either.
Australia’s per capita carbon emissions are moving in the right direction but we need to do more. We export. We need a common policy for the country as our top exports all contribute to green house gas emissions. We need to recognise that ESG rankings will begin (are beginning) to impact funding costs and that this will happen at the sovereign level.
Per capita carbon emissions pre pandemic. Australia vs China
So, what did I do?
I made changes and commitments to explore further change and I bought offsets for my households total CO2 emissions. Am I greenwashing? Will I be accused of talking and writing BLAH, BLAH, BLAH? Quite possibly. To escape validating this accusation will require vigilance on my part. Change began with a simple decision to learn more and calculate my footprint.
Carbon pricing and carbon offsets are often talked of as a one-way bet ,the price can only go higher. Experience has taught me that this is almost never the case in markets but net zero trends and the impact from climate are definitely part of the fabric now. By targeting 2050, the world has locked in30 years of GHG emissions measurement and locked in ESG and impact metrics as not only keys in investing, but change factors of how society lives, works, and plays.
This will be a long journey that starts with a simple question, ‘what’s my carbon footprint?’
Go ahead and ask … What is your personal footprint? What is your company’s footprint? What is your country’s footprint? And then decide to make a change, or don’t.
This is after all a judgement free zone.
And yes, everyone matters.
“Blitzkrieg Bop" is a song by the Ramones. It was released as the band's debut single in February 1976 and is ranked 92 on Rolling Stone magazines 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
David 'Bushy' Nolan
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