04.Reducing your carbon footprint
“Offsets are a legitimate product to make use of. But you don’t just want to use them as a way of getting rid of your guilt for having a high-emission lifestyle,” says Pears.
Will McGoldrick, WWF Australia’s Climate Change policy manager, agrees. “The first step should be [to take advantage of] opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint. Households and businesses have low-cost opportunities to reduce emissions."
"That could be lowering the thermostat on the heater by 1.C, insulating, closing gaps in doors and windows, commuting to work using public transport or choosing a fuel-efficient car. It does make sense, once you’ve done all those things, to continue to invest in offsetting. What you’re demonstrating by doing that is you’re taking full responsibility for your emissions.”
To calculate your carbon footprint, head to the Australian Greenhouse Calculator (AGC), released by the Victorian EPA. Pears, one of the creators of the AGC, says it’s a great tool for calculating your emissions and demonstrating ways of reducing them.
“It draws out the way you use your appliances and the kinds of appliances you have, and by doing that it’s helping you understand what greenhouse gas emissions are associated with certain activities, and how changing behaviour or technology can reduce your emissions and your bills,” says Pears.
What about the carbon price?
As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, Australia must ensure its greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012 are no more than eight per cent above the levels they were in 1990. The government has implemented a number of programs that will help achieve this.
The carbon price, which is now seeing about 500 of Australia’s biggest polluters pay for the pollution they emit, is one way for Australia to reduce its emissions. However, it does not counter the emissions produced by individuals or smaller companies.