Net Zero Carbon Emissions

What does it really mean for me?

Over the years as it’s become obvious to any thinking person that global warming due to human activities is having devastating impacts around the world, many governments and some global companies have made commitments to reducing their contributions to the problem.

We have had numerous inter-governmental summits (Kyoto, Rio, Paris) and annual conferences where lots of people spend lots of time committing lots of money to doing lots of things to slow down global warming.

Sadly our Australian Government is not ideologically committed to this despite the droughts, bushfires and other clear signs we are in trouble.  Our Pentecostal “Christian” leaders are assuming the second coming will save them before it’s too late.

However, for the rest of us who have our feet on the ground and want to leave our children and grand children a viable planet to live on, it seems too hard at times.  We are told the cost to our economy is too great if we reduce our emissions.  But as with so much else, the truth is far different than the rhetoric.

There are so many economic and scientific articles contradicting that view with only fossil fuel industry reports supporting it, that any average person can see the vested interests and paid opinions are only about protecting profits, not the environment.

The bad news for Australians is that at both the production (things we dig out of the ground and manufacture or export) and consumption (things we buy locally and internationally and consume) parts of our economy we are near the top of the list for carbon emissions.  Our coal and gas fired power stations plus the coal and gas we export to other countries to burn are major contributors to this.  With no obvious signs that this is going to change in the near future, we have to look elsewhere to make a difference.

Many of us feel the little things we do make no difference, and of course that is the subtle message coming from various sources to try to stop us taking any action.

But it is the little things we do every day, and repeat, and that are done by everyone in your family, your neighbours, your town, city state and country that do make a difference.  It’s simple maths at the end of the day.

To make it really simple I have rounded off numbers so it’s easy to do the maths in our heads!

In total Australia accounts for 550 million tonnes of CO2e each year which means each person is responsible for 22 tonnes.

What we can do?

Plant a tree.  Trees will absorb around 20kg/annum and around 1 tonne over its life.  So we would each need to plant 1,100 trees AND not cut down any to break even. However, 1 mature tree produces enough oxygen for one person, so even if you can’t plant 1,100 trees, planting a few still makes a difference.  If we all planted 10 trees per year (or paid farmers to do this on our behalf – they need all the help they can get), by 2050 that’s 300 trees each and 6 tonnes/annum and we are almost a third of the way there. How about starting a community garden with fruit trees you can pick from fresh and in season or encouraging your council to plant more shade trees in the local streets, reducing heat in summer while encouraging native birds and animals as well as bees to come back.

Drive less.  Cars produce around 200gm/km when driving.  If you drive 20,000km in a year that’s 4 tonnes of CO2e.  But if you walked, caught public transport and reduced this by 50% then you will reduce this by 2 tonnes per year.  We are up to 8 tonnes of savings and you have become slimmer and fitter by doing some more walking which means you are likely to live longer and see the fruits of your work.  In the near future you could also swap to an electric vehicle.  Instead of buying a home battery, your electric car could also provide power in a blackout as the battery is around 8-10 times the capacity of a typical home battery.

Buy locally grown and seasonal foods.  This is not a discussion about the banned pesticides and questionable food standards of other countries, BUT Australian grown foods are generally far safer to eat than imported foods.  However even here much of our food ends up being transported an average of 2000km from farm to manufacturer, to distribution centres, supermarkets then your home and adds a huge amount to emissions.  Buying locally also encourages smaller and more sustainable practices in farming rather than wholesale clearing of land, large commercially driven monoculture production and high use of artificial fertilisers which all seriously impact the soil and air quality.  It’s estimated around 4-5% of our emissions could be reduced if we bought more local foods.  That’s the equivalent of around 1 tonne of CO2e and gets us to 9 tonnes.  Not to mention seasonal and local foods employ local people and are SO MUCH tastier as they are fresh and haven’t been sitting in cold store or on a ship for 2-6 months.

Residential solar installation
Residential solar is an ideal way to invest in your home and save money on energy bills

Putting up solar to reduce your energy costs and emissions.  This is obviously not always possible or practical but is definitely high on the list of things to do if you can.  The typical 6.6kW solar system being installed today will reduce emissions by almost 9 tonnes per annum and with an expected life of around 25 years, that’s 225 tonnes in total.  A 10kW solar system reduces emissions by over 14 tonnes/annum.  That would take you to being carbon negative by 1 tonne per year, not to mention the $2500/annum you would save on energy bills.

Vote with your pocket.  By this I mean choose what and who you buy things from based on their environmental and sustainability commitments. Tasmania’s clean green image has recently been tarnished by the salmon farming scandals, so don’t buy farmed salmon and these companies will get the message as demand and profits drop. Your superannuation or shares are being used by large companies to make profits and return dividends to you.  But some still haven’t got the message, so change your investments (renewable energy companies are doing very well) or at the AGM ask questions about the company’s plans for global warming and sustainability.  If enough people put pressure on, the executives and boards will have to change course as they are accountable to ALL shareholders.

And there it is.  Some minor changes to how each of us thinks AND acts, a small investment in solar for our homes which pays for itself very quickly and each of us can be carbon neutral in a very short period of time.  There are no major sacrifices to make as each of these changes has positive benefits for you and your family, friends and community.

Of course there are numerous other positive and practical things you can do. Design, build or renovate your home to minimise it’s embodied energy and need for heating and cooling. Good passive solar design, insulation, double glazing, thermal mass, use of renewable and recyclable materials, ensure all appliances are electric and install more solar panels to provide the energy you need. Don’t install gas – it’s not renewable and you can’t generate your own. Don’t accept single use anything, go op shopping and repurpose, have your own garden, compost food waste, pressure your council to recycle more.

Maintaining the status quo and doing nothing will hurt all of us long term. 

Don’t leave it to someone else, speak up and take positive action.

Leave a legacy your grandchildren will be proud of.

If you want more help on going carbon neutral, give us a call on 0431010323 or email and we can work with you on positive energy solutions.

Leave a Reply