Counting Down Carbon

Carbon Watchdog exists to put forward one way of tackling climate change – practical and achievable – for everyone out there who either realises already or wants to find out how ordinary people like ourselves need to address this existential crisis:

  • we have to reduce our individual carbon footprints, which can be done more easily as part of a group – like Carbon Watchdog is organising – and then find a way to get everybody to do their fair share
  • we have to get our businesses, industries, and local and national governments to get in on the program – not one based on untested technologies, far-off targets and paying someone else to offset our emissions, but a program that sees them manage their carbon footprints in the same straight-forward way that we manage our own

Carbon Watchdog is helping to set up carbon footprinting community groups (we are starting in North London right now) which bring people together and involve local borough councils and local businesses, and draw government’s and industry’s attention to old-made-new policies like Personal Carbon Trading, Universal Carbon Credits and a carbon currency.

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Here you’ll find the latest information on climate change, how it affects our lives and what we have to do to rise to the challenge, in articles, podcasts and videos on this website and across social media.

What is a carbon footprint? Your carbon footprint is the total of all the CO2 emissions you cause directly and indirectly, if you add up everything from what you do or get, for every goods or service you use, including your fair share of the manufacturing, processing, packaging, delivery and servicing of that goods or service. It is easy to calculate our average carbon footprint, because it equals our fair share of the CO2 emissions that society pumps into the atmosphere. However it is very difficult to work out what our actual individual carbon footprint is, but if we want to reduce it, that is what we have to do, just like Weight Watchers count their calories.

If you want to help:

  • if you can afford a small regular donation, please sign up at Patreon red Patreon logo
  • subscribe to the newsletter mailing list for regular updates
  • join our founding carbon footprint group – this is still in the process of being set up, so subscribe to the newsletter and we’ll let you know.
  • send me a message via the website’s contact page
  • follow our social media accounts:

This is the “final call” on global warming, over 200 scientists and economists demand rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society in order to stay below 1.5°C.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C 2018

How do we get everyone to join in? Here’s the Carbon Watchdog way – start off with your own carbon footprint, join others in a local carbon footprint group, get local government and business involved, help the creation of a convenient app that keeps it simple, help push for action in your local area. Then we scale it up once the ball starts rolling.

If everyone on the planet reduced their carbon footprint to the sustainable amount, then that carbon footprint is what everyone should aim for, fair and square. How can we do that though in the industrialised countries when our footprint is 10 to 20 times the fair carbon amount?

Individual

If you watch your carbon footprint or have even a modicum of what is known as ‘carbon literacy’, then great stuff, you are already rationing for yourself and being fairer, more sustainable and carbon-neutral. Knowing what your footprint is a bit of pre-requisite if you want to reduce it.

There are numerous carbon footprint calculators, e.g. from WWF above, or Carbon Footprint.com. Most of them will roughly estimate how many tonnes of CO2 you emit based on the assumption that you have attempted nothing to reduce your CO2 emissions, and then try to get you to offset the amount – I wrote here why offsetting is a sticking plaster that doesn’t really address the long term problem: https://carbonwatchdog.org/offsetting/

To make it convenient though, we want a carbon footprint app that runs on our mobile phones. Carbon Watchdog likes this one:

Maybe even better would be one that can be connected to things like our energy provider or our supermarket till receipt.

Local

The problem with carbon footprints is that it is difficult to work out what to do once you’ve nailed the low hanging fruit – air travel for instance. By joining a local carbon footprint group, you can share the knowledge and experience with like-minded people and boost your efforts and personal satisfaction at your progress.

Here at Carbon Watchdog, setting up a carbon footprint group is underway. The design for the groups revolves around a fusion of a climate citizens assembly and a Weight Watchers group. If that hasn’t put you off, get in touch via the Contact page to join up.

We are setting up a charity with the goal of supporting local carbon footprint groups in the UK by providing an easily accessible way of finding out where all your CO2 emissions are happening. Only if you know what the carbon footprint of the products you buy or the services you use are, will you be able to work out where you can best and most conveniently reduce your own footprint.

Regional or City-based Carbon Rations Scheme

Local carbon footprint groups, full of volunteers putting their energy into achievable, practical actions, aim to get local businesses and town or city councils involved as well. This is where it really gets interesting – there are so many different facets to “carbon quotas” or “carbon allowances” or personal carbon trading as it is also known. It has so much potential for CO2 emissions reduction.

In the city of Lahti, Finland, the city council has taken the idea of a carbon footprint group to the n set up a voluntary carbon rationing scheme called “Citicap”, referring to the citizens’ cap-and-trade scheme, all possible over their mobiles. They give their participants 25kg CO2 rations per week and offer rewards if people keep under that.

National

Climate change will not be sorted once and for all if only half of us are interested. If governments make it mandatory for everyone, they would be putting their nations on the straight and narrow path to zero emissions. No more vague, distant targets based on voluntary carbon markets. We’ve used rations before during wartime and now, faced with threats of a similar magnitude due to climate change, it’s time for it again.

If voluntary regional or city-based personal carbon trading schemes have great potential, then at a national scale, the possibilities are fantastic. Using a carbon currency based on universal carbon credits, with citizens driving the energy transition through the whole economy and demanding comprehensive CO2 emission reductions in all products and services, the targets and goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement look achievable again.

We’ve put together a policy proposal called Total Carbon Rationing or a Universal Carbon Credits as a Carbon Currency that shows how.

Global Carbon Rationing and Climate Justice

Getting the world to do global carbon rationing is an awesome endeavour. Yet that’s exactly what the United Nations Climate Conventions up until Copenhagen 2010 were all about (the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change COPs or “Conference of Parties”).

This UNFCCC plan for multi-national carbon rationing was called the Contraction and Convergence Initiative or “C&C”, a plan which was based on fair carbon rations for each person on the planet.

It was never implemented though. After 20 years of trying, the UN climate convention in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2010 failed to reach unanimous agreement. The UN realised how doomed its attempts were to create a top-down agreement between all nations on a radical, planned, step-wise energy transition away from CO2-emitting fossil fuels.

Instead, the UN sought only unanimous agreement on a global goal – which they achieved with the Paris 2015 Agreement: to aim to keep total global warming to 1.5°C / 2.7°F, with no specific mandatory agreement over how much and how soon CO2 emissions would be reduced.

The UN C&C initiative is still there though, and this is how it would work – in a world which decided it was necessary.

Contraction stands for the steady reduction in CO2 emissions that each nation would agree to. The richer countries would take on more responsibility for reducing their emissions faster. The countries with the largest historic emissions would also take on more responsibility, maybe through sharing and subsidising investment in green infrastructure with other countries.

Convergence stands for the way that all nations’ per capita emissions would gradually converge to equality. There would be a date set in the future at which point all citizens in all countries would be allocated the same CO2 emissions allowance, or at least their government would be on their behalf.

Carbon currency based on carbon rations reduces carbon footprints

The Future

Don’t forget the goal! A world where we keep global warming in check is still possible. These are Carbon Watchdog’s favourite climate leaders: