It has been twenty years since the first Rio Earth Summit, and during those years, many things have changed. It is probably this constant flux in the world's economic power balance that has stopped its leaders from agreeing on measures to reduce our carbon footprint - I believe this happed yet again at Rio +20. Even the presence of the King of Sweden and Hilary Clinton was not enough to convince all parties to agree on a resolution. Although, they did decide that a document is needed. I'd say that is some progress, at least.
Nevertheless, this is a blow to the carbon trading market, and it seems that global policies are failing to achieve their objectives. Until all countries can finally be cajoled into signing binding pacts, suggestion is it will fall on regional and national policies to control and reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. In my last blog, I touched on the subject by mentioning the UK governments Energy Efficiency Scheme and France's plans to introduce similar legislation. News is that the German federal government is planning an energy tax which would also force a phased implementation of an energy management system (ISO50001) between 2012 and 2015. As a result, German companies with large energy appetites would have to invest into software and pay tax on their energy.
Carbon, once touted as the next biggest commodity market in the world, doesn't seem to featurein these plans, butwe should remember that other schemes like European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), regulate the carbon side of things. In 2012 it even extended to the airline industry, whose executives must be whooping with joy.
I always wondered if these schemes actually work. Certainly, they bring revenue to national governments, but do they actually help us achieve any of the commitments from the Kyoto Protocol?
Source: British Energy
For the UK, the above picture is flattering, but not because of CRC or EES, or any other legislation of scheme.It is simply because of the price of energy.
The UK Department for Energy and Agricultures (DEFRA) states in their recent emission report that the 2010 - 2011 figures were in large part the result of reduction in residential gas use and the increased use of nuclear power. Residential energy use went down by 22% -- this does not include electricity reduction, which is calculated as part of the energy supply business - this was reduced by 6.1 %.
As a UK resident, I can tell why residential energy use is driving the reduction in carbon emissions. Prices are astronomical. My own energy bill has doubled over the last two years, and not because I've got a bigger house or more kids (Do you know how much an average child costs to bring up in the UK? An eye-watering £ 200,000). As a result, instead of boiling water on the gas stove, I boil it in a much more effective electric kettle. I switch off anything that is not needed. It has become a habit, to be frugal, and I'm even thinking of getting residential wind turbines or solar panels, although that investment still remains too costly. Figures suggest everyone else is doing the same.
To look at all this from my residential perspective it seems that if we want to save the planet from climate change, it is down to us normal people to change our energy habits. It can make a real difference. With failing summits, there is no point waiting any longer for national governments and heavy industry to make a difference - it is us that can make it. So switch off that TV set and upgrade the old computer to a more energy efficient one - it will pay off in the long term.
I challenge industry to look into their energy usage in the same way. As an example, I bet many, many organisations run servers, desktops and other energy-hungry machines without even knowing some of them are there, and this is the final point I would like to make today: Be aware that there is software that can help detect and pinpoint blind spots like this and help drive further savings in energy cost and of course, our total national carbon footprints.