April 15, 2008
THE WORLDS CARBON FOOTPRINT
Carbon Neutral (Wikipedia): Being carbon neutral, or carbon neutrality, refers to neutral (meaning zero) total carbon release, brought about by balancing the amount of carbon released with the amount sequestered or offset.
Carbon neutrality is a term that is touted in many circles these days, as companies work to improve our environmental situation. Working towards a carbon neutral or low carbon society is something that I support and as I learn more, feel deeply passionate towards. We are facing a very big climate crisis and I intend to do my part to improve the way we live with our planet.
Ecological, Economical and Social. These are the three principles that should guide all Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) within the green industry. For company management and investors alike, this means a proactive approach towards all parts of your value chain. Take for example a real estate investor. It used to be enough to buy land, relocate people and develop your structure. Today, one responsibly invests in carbon neutral designs, assesses the carbon impact of the site and plans on the effect relocation of individuals has on the environment (I recall the recent headlines with the Subic development of Shimao). Investors should look carefully into these environmentally friendly practices. HSBC has recently claimed they are carbon neutral and take pride in providing loans and assistance to companies working to improve their carbon footprint. Sounds like a lot more work? Well, yes, but it is really more of a mind frame. If we all accept that carbon HAS a cost; that shirt you wear is $10 in materials $5 in carbon emissions used in production, delivery, etc. Then maybe the world can really start understanding that climate change has now become a part of our daily lives.
These days it is becoming publicly laudable for companies and individuals to take proactive steps. Green has nurtured a “cool factor” partially due to the impact of celebrities like Al Gore and Toyotas Prius. I find it fitting that the word cool is used to describe the battle against global warming.
Presently sitting at a Thai restaurant in Hong Kong that like other establishments in this city, blast CFC induced cold air, 247, I recall a recent statistic brought up at one of my recent meetings: “The meat industry produces more carbon than the entire logistics industry.” Interesting. This means that a lot of the carbon neutral gains that we have been developing through complicated regulations and systems within companies (a good number logistics related), can be achieved by a simpler and psychologically powerful effort. Eating less meat. Statistics have also shown that buildings, specifically AMERICAN buildings are the biggest polluters. They are dark monoliths of poor design and excess. They also prove difficult to change. It is astounding to think that for all of the bad press automobiles have on the environment, it is actually the large skyscrapers that do more damage.
A low carbon society and economy is our medium term goal, with carbon neutrality for the long term. Business and government leaders need to educate a public that is aware of the effects of carbon, but may not actively be participating in its minimization. Consumers should understand that low carbon products have a value and that a change in lifestyle does not necessarily have to be as drastic as green pundits make it sound (Eat less meat!). There are costs to inaction and for this reason alone we cannot sit around and wait for the changes to happen. In this regard I feel that scientists and regulators are failing. Programs and projects are fragmented and often times complicated to understand. We need these great brains to spend as much time creating a palatable (clearer) approach for change as they do on finding a solution. If I myself am having a difficult time understanding what sort of changes to make in my organization and what the immediate benefits are, what more companies who are not as exposed to this industry? It is not about just throwing money into projects. It is about finding projects that can be tackled by companies and individuals of different financial, structural, environmental backgrounds. We need to understand how our immediate universe affects the environment and the quantifiable (maybe through carbon credits?) results of our actions.
Experts have given 2015 as the date before irreversible change occurs in our environment. I choose not to dwell on seemingly doomsday predictions, but I do agree that a change needs to be made, and quickly. It is time we all take our part in changing this world.