From Personal to Global
People who are informed about climate change generally really want to do something about it, to save themselves from the disasters we are inflicting on ourselves. The level of danger that civilisation faces is fearsome and existential, anxiety-inducing and sometimes paralysing. To combat this, the prescribed medicine is climate action.
This is something that individuals can do. There are many ways it can be done, and EcoCounts (EcoCore’s sister organisation and charity) provides the help and advice that people really need. But once an individual has started living in more climate-aware way, reducing their personal carbon footprint, becoming more eco-friendly and sustainable, at times the personal satisfaction in this will be outweighed by the effort they put in. The big issue is that most other people aren’t doing it.
The main point of EcoCounts is to bring people together to take action as a group, so that we can inspire each other and know that we’re not on our own. Another part of what EcoCounts does it to record how effective we are at living sustainably. We can record our individual carbon footprints and demonstrate that we are creating 20% less CO2 emissions compared to the average Londoner. This makes a good story for the press who love a headline with facts and real people making progress. Then we can go on to reduce our footprint by 5% every year, demonstrably, in ways we choose, as a group.
Business and Local Government
At the Scottish, the UK and the French climate assemblies, the call for carbon labelling was key result. We want local businesses and public services to work with us on declaring the carbon footprints of everything they sell or provide.
For other purchases without a carbon label, we want to create an app to call up the carbon label from our own records. Currently we use spreadsheets for everything, and we spend a lot of time entering data.
One problem people have when they try to live sustainably is that they can’t give up everything. This is unhelpful black and white thinking. We don’t have to give up everything. A journey of thousand miles is started by a single step. Instead of looking at the problem as an unending struggle to bring down your CO2 emissions, we set people a carbon budget and tell them to try to stick to it, and let them do “personal carbon trading”.
If an EcoCounter wants to fly to Australia to see family, they can trade for the carbon – favours, services, swaps, money – with someone who is happily under budget and has carbon to spare. This idea of personal carbon trading, or carbon allowances, has been researched and trials show that the groups who do carbon trading can lower their emissions as a group. The participants also demonstrate higher levels of commitment and staying power. This is also a direct way to involve local businesses and public services in the program, which would raise public awareness and general carbon literacy.
So what about all the people who aren’t joining in? It’s disheartening to put so much effort into trying to do something good when your neighbours and the rest of the country are undoing all your efforts with their “normal” behaviour. How do we make carbon budgets and carbon trading normal?
EcoCore advocates that the nation adopts carbon allowances for everyone, and creates a carbon currency out of them that business and industry would use to price the carbon in their products and services in a dual price economy (cash & carbon). This is the proposal put forward by EcoCore under Prof Steve Keen, the renowned economist and author. The personal carbon trading moves up a level from citizen-based to economy-wide. Our EcoCounts participants can see where this is leading and why it’s worth staying the course.
Asking every firm or corporation to put a carbon price on what they sell requires them to run a carbon budget internally, just like financial income and expenditure. They can only earn carbon tokens by demanding them as payment from their customers. It’s a simple calculation. They must pay for everything they purchase with carbon tokens (just like citizens), so the carbon price of any individual item is simply incremented as it is sold along the supply chain, by amounts determined by the business handling it.
While it’s true that putting a carbon price label on everything in the economy is a huge undertaking, it does create a very robust carbon price as people and businesses trade their carbon tokens. This drives innovation and progress not just in business and industry, but in public services like the NHS or the armed forces as well, which would also be covered by the carbon currency.
A great advantage of this concrete carbon price is that it can be used globally. Taking the step up from national to international, with a robust carbon price, the typically complex climate negotiations can focus on dividing up what’s left of the global carbon budget by value. Nations can bring whatever other financial figures they have to the table: historical emissions, international debt, technology transfer, climate reparations. They can discuss any proposal with hard numbers and clarity around its economic value.
Such a global climate deal also has a massive advantage over current climate negotiations – it doesn’t need a unanimous decision from all nations on the planet, it can start already with whichever nations are willing.