In my blog, Happy XMAS (War is Over?) I discussed how the pandemic knocked the air out of all other priorities, and the pressing need now to reprioritize specifically climate change as the really big impending catastrophe. And I posed the question, “Should we simply return to what was normal in 2019? Or do we have a one-time opportunity to leverage not just the accidental reduction in emissions, but to learn from our experience of disaster?”
This last year we have all been following the Covid19 numbers – the cases, the R0, the hospitalization and sadly the deaths. I’ve no doubt that we will continue this in 2021, but I suggest we need to focus everyone on a new set of numbers. Specifically, we all need to become very familiar with the Carbon Footprint, our own personal load, our family’s, our business, our country’s etc. Not surprisingly Climate matters have dropped off the agenda. Even if we hadn’t been so preoccupied with Covid19, let’s be honest we have all become bored with Climate Change. It’s been going for so long, there’s nothing new to say and frankly until it arrives, it’s not news. And the interminable international meetings that all result in failure to agree because vested interests won’t act leave us cold. And even when there are huge wildfires, floods or hurricanes, the scientists say as ever, well Climate Change has some level of impact on the severity or frequency, but we can’t be more specific.
So, what’s changed? Firstly, we have all become more sensitized to the idea that our lives are not running on rails. It doesn’t take much to thoroughly wreck our lives, our livelihoods in an instant. Second during lockdowns many of us have been tuned into David Attenborough, whose gentle but persistent demonstrations have shown us how we ourselves are causing the natural world to collapse!
Just stop and consider which type of catastrophe might just arrive into your life without notice – wildfire, flood, drought or absence of potable water, food shortages caused by crop failures caused by all of the others, pollution or unbreathable air, massive increases in migration from affected areas, economic collapse caused by all of the others and so on. Climate change is insidious because it’s happening all the time all around the world and we become desensitized to the news stories. But every day somewhere in the world people like us are being made homeless, sick or dying. You might like to check out the New Humanitarian site on Environment and Disasters.
So, we all need to engage with the new number – Carbon Footprint. We need to use this in our lives to make decisions about whether or how we travel, what we purchase, from where . . . .
Also in my blog post , Happy XMAS (War is Over?) I proposed that we need an app that allows everyone, individuals, businesses, schools, clubs, governments etc to measure their own carbon footprint. The amount of CO2 they are producing on a daily, weekly monthly and yearly basis. It needs to be reasonably accurate; not like the apps you can currently download that are just puerile. The app needs to integrate businesses, government departments and individuals so the performance of my electricity supplier is reflected in my own personal footprint. And we all need to be able to use the app on a daily basis to record and monitor how we are doing.
I would like to see governments getting everyone energized and engaged in Climate actions. For example:
- All businesses over €1m turnover to publish annual update of their Carbon footprint as a web service that can be accessed as public domain information and in annual accounts. Calculated footprints to be published for each taxable business unit by geography and specific consumer products. E.g Electricity companies publish total and per Kw by service type.
- Governments to establish carbon inspectorates to assess and challenge published footprint data.
- Governments to develop sector specific carbon incentives and taxes based on carbon footprint targets and achievements. These could be applicable to businesses and individuals.
In effect I’m proposing that there needs to be both carrot and stick. If we, particularly businesses, but individuals also, reduce our carbon load we should benefit from lower taxes or rebates. And if particularly businesses increase carbon load, we should be taxed more heavily.
The carbon load should also be, excuse the pun, “fully loaded”. In other words, let’s take the example of a meat producer that exports meat products to China, the producer should be responsible for the carbon load incurred by the entire supply chain. In this way we are changing the Climate Agenda – to engage individuals who adapt their spending to reward companies that are reducing their carbon load and enabling individual consumers to do same. And at the same time raising the level of attention and awareness that causes governments to introduce new policies, incentives and taxes to encourage climate friendly behaviour and highlight climate damaging behaviour.
Finally, we should be deeply sceptical about the much heralded COP26 Glasgow Climate Conference, postponed from 2020 to November 2021. Apart from the nauseating sight of Boris Johnson pretending to save the world, we should expect the big countries to agree on some compromise that is a) way too late to stop the world exceeding 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and b) allows them to kick the can down the road yet again. We need to energise climate actions in a highly effective way, engaging ordinary people that causes and enables governments to make more courageous longer term decisions.