Is there any point in working on my own individual carbon footprint when the government isn’t even doing much to help the situation? Of course! Read more to find out why – and also why it makes sense to not only reduce your CO₂ emissions, but also to offset them.
We all know we need to change if we want to prevent the climate crisis from escalating to the extreme. That is something we simply cannot allow to happen – and we shouldn’t want it to happen either. The time has come for comprehensive, or perhaps even radical political measures. Because only then will we be able to achieve the climate goals that have been set – especially since we have already wasted decades talking instead of acting.
But just waiting around until something changes isn’t a solution either. We can all do our bit and make our own contribution to combating climate change by avoiding, minimising and offsetting the CO₂ emissions we are responsible for. And yet the question often remains: how much can I really achieve as an individual?
What changes can I make on my own?
To answer this question, it helps to take a closer look at the figures: the average person in Germany emits around 11 tonnes of CO₂ per year; in total this amounts to 800 million tonnes for the entire country. This means that Germany is responsible for around 2% of global CO₂ emissions. Which might not sound like a lot, but this supposedly low share of emissions ranks us 6th globally – and puts us in the top ten of the world’s worst polluters, which isn’t exactly the kind of ranking we should be aspiring to. And that two percent isn’t as low as it may sound. Since industrialisation began, Germany has contributed to almost 5% of global warming.
And the situation is similar with the roughly 11 tonnes we produce per capita. At first sight – and compared to the approximately 37 million tonnes per year produced worldwide – you might think that this figure isn’t really high. But if we put it in context and compare it to the worldwide average per capita, then, at around five tonnes, it is less than half of what each of us here in Germany emits on average. So compared to people from other countries, we are generating a lot more CO₂ – and therefore maxing out our “budget”. With its total emissions, China, for example, is the country with the highest emissions worldwide, but “only” around 7 tonnes are emitted per capita there. And in Kenya it’s only around 0.4 tonnes a year.
So we have a responsibility to work on our own personal CO₂ footprint – and that can be a real incentive! Every tonne less represents a success and helps in the long term, especially if you don’t just look at yourself, but see climate protection as the collective project that it is. And as well as your own positive contribution, it’s also about sending out a signal to others and acting responsibly.
But my carbon emissions aren’t even that high!
What if you’re already paying attention to your own CO₂ footprint, are aware of climate-related issues, perhaps even using green electricity, barely flying anymore and have already stopped eating animal products? How big would your footprint be?
If that’s the case, then well done! After all, our heating, electricity supply, mobility, what we eat and anything else we consume are all essential factors that affect our own carbon footprint. But what many people still haven’t realised, for example, is what kind of influence digitalisation has on it. The emissions generated by sending and receiving e-mails, YouTube, Netflix, WhatsApp, video conferences, surfing the web and all the rest of it are in fact enormously high. Every year the internet usage in Germany produces just as much CO₂ as the air traffic in a (normal, non-pandemic) year. On a global scale, the figure currently stands at around 800 million tonnes – and rising.
It’s not about achieving perfection; it’s about making a start
Of course not all of us here in Germany generate as much CO₂ as that. Some people are more advanced than others, some have more knowledge, or perhaps some simply find it easier to cut down for various reasons. But even without measuring our own emissions, it is clear to most of us: we might be moving in the right direction, but there is still plenty room for improvement. And even the CO₂ tax, which is set to come into force in 2021 and will have a steering effect for the economic sector, is not a cure-all either. It is still important that each of us make an effort and reflect on our own actions.
But it’s not about achieving perfection, or shaming anyone. Everyone is free to go at their own pace and within their own means. If you want to do your bit to protect the climate, the most important thing is that you start somewhere. After all, long distances can also be covered with small steps. And the best time to start is always now.
Reducing and offsetting your CO₂
Wherever you are unable to reduce or cancel out your carbon footprint completely, it helps to compensate it. There are a few different ways to do this – and here at Tomorrow we’ve also looked into how we can support you with this. That’s why we introduced Zero this year: an account model that helps you offset the average carbon footprint of a person in Germany for a whole year. Once you’ve set up your account, you will be offsetting your carbon footprint again and again, every month.
It’s not the only solution, but it’s a solution – for all those who would really like to do something but aren’t quite sure how to start reducing their emissions. So not only can you set up an account with Tomorrow but will also be making a climate protection contribution that supports people in the global South. Not a bad start at all, if you ask us! Find out more about our Zero account here.