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  • Cliff Mail

Time to talk about personal carbon budgets

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

You get the feeling that we are all hanging back waiting for the Government to come up with a cunning plan to meet its Paris emissions reduction obligations or even maybe a slightly more aspirational target. I say cunning because, we want the Government to meet it without inconveniencing us - Joe and Jill Public.

Well what do you want first, the good or bad news? Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way.. If, for example, the Government decides that it wants to halve transport emissions, that basically means that you and I are going to need to drive our cars around a lot more more sparingly, or, forgo one of those overseas trips or, maybe have a zoom meeting rather than flying to Christchurch or Wellington for a natter with our southern colleagues. The good news is; that if we have to take this ‘medicine’ (we do, the choice is reduce emissions or, do you really want to have it spelt out?) why wait for the Government to wave a big stick at us. Sure there might be a little carrot as well but don’t count on it. The longer we leave making an adjustment, the more dramatic (and potentially traumatic) those changes will be.

You cannot deal with your personal carbon emissions unless you know what they are. It is just like household budgeting, you cannot determine what income you need or adjust your spending if you don’t know what or how much you spend on different things.

Carbon Neutral NZ Trust has made it easy for you to calculate your carbon emissions. Simply go to our carbon calculator and put in a few easy to access details (your consumption) and hey presto your emissions are calculated for you. If you want to, you can register and track your progress through to 2030 - the objective being to reduce your current emissions by 50% by that date.

So what are the emissions of the average New Zealander? We know what the total emissions of the country are and if we apportion these on a per person (per capita) basis we can come up with a rough guideline that you can compare your calculated emission against. I have used the figure below which removes goods exported and adds in goods imported - more reflective of an individuals consumption:

What does 8,560kg of emissions look like from a personal perspective? Using our calculator I came up with this as a possible profile for our average emissions - bear in mind that many will be exceeding this and many will be below it - its an average:

Now you know what your emissions are, you can start to set an annual budget for the next nine years through to 2030. In the example above, the emitter needs to reduce emissions by 475kg a year. We have noted the type of actions that they would need to consider in red. If they leave all the changes until 2029 (i.e., they kick the can down the road - which is the current go-to solution) it simply results in 2029 being a year from hell - they are going to be real grumpy if they have to swallow all those pills in one dose. However, 475kg a year could be achieved by a few tweaks each year making the medicine is more palatable. For example, only one flight to Australia or reducing their meat consumption takes care of a year’s reductions.

There is even a bit of ‘very special good news’ here. Less carbon emitted usually equals less money spent which means less hours that you have to work. Pay the mortgage off a little earlier just in case those super low interest rates decide to head north again.

Happy budgeting.


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