Will the rich change for the planet?

By Rajiv Vij

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it, commented Mark Twain. I too have been guilty of this. I thought i was doing my bit by segregating waste, using more recycled products, buying more organic food, avoiding plastic and using energy-saving devices. On calculating my annual carbon footprint recently, i realised how inadequate those efforts are.

My footprint is roughly 11 tons. To put it in perspective, the average for an American, an Indian and the world is around 16 tons, 1.8 tons and 4.5 tons, respectively. If the world follows through on the Paris climate change accord, the global average would need to be below 2 tons by 2050. I guess that’s what my goal should be – to progressively reduce my carbon footprint from 11 tons to 2 tons.

Looking through my personal data, the biggest contributors of CO2 emissions generated by me are: my car, food, other personal products, airplane travel and electricity. I work from home and use my car only a few times a week. I am not an extravagant spender and my travel is limited to a couple of international holidays and a few work-related trips every year. If you are a business leader, i wonder what your carbon footprint might be?

As i analyse the way forward, i thought of sharing some of the ideas that i have explored. We can start by calculating our personal carbon footprint. While the government and the industry surely need to do much more, we can take greater personal responsibility, too.

1.7 times faster than what Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate. The only way to reverse this alarming trend is to reduce our consumption levels. This has to begin with the rich. The wealthiest 10% of the world contribute to one-half of global emissions, with the average carbon footprint of the super-rich estimated to be a staggering 65 tons.

The challenge is whether the rich will be willing to moderate their lifestyle. The rich not only consume more, they waste more, too. They throw away over 3 kg of stuff every day. If the rich set a good example, the less affluent may also be less tempted to seek hedonistic consumption.

Use of coal-based electricity, aviation and vehicular fuel account for a large portion of our personal carbon footprint. Simply flying less and primarily using public transport is ideal. I figured that moving to a solar-powered electric vehicle, can significantly reduce my footprint. Similarly, moving to solar-energy for my home will help reduce my footprint.

Meat consumption is a big contributor to carbon emissions. The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes and ships combined. With growing prosperity, worldwide, meat consumption is on the rise. Actively reducing meat consumption is essential to mitigate climate change; it’s also a healthier option.

Further, we can choose to buy food that are organic and locally produced. We can consider recycling our food waste. Organising a compost at home or an eco-digester in a residential building are good options.

Lastly, we can plant more trees to offset our carbon footprint. My wife and i have been gifting trees to our friends on their happy occasions. Also, we have just planted hundreds of trees to offset our family’s annual carbon footprint. While planting trees is not the final solution –it certainly helps.

The writer is a life coach, he lives in Singapore

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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