Make Ecological Limits Central to Decision Making

In their most recent report, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has warned against exceeding 2 degrees Celsius of warming (compared to pre-industrial temperatures) so as to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. Climate change is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing humanity but there are others such as resource depletion, biodiversity loss, pollution and soil erosion. We need to ensure all people live well, within the means of one planet. To achieve this we can use various tools:

Carbon Budgeting
Greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) that cause climate change can be emitted through certain human activities. We need to measure the emissions of these gases, determine the magnitude of emissions reductions needed locally, set targets for future reductions and report on the progress of reductions.

Carbon Pricing/Carbon Tax
This is a method to encourage the reduction of global-warming emissions by charging those who emit carbon dioxide (CO2) for their emissions. Carbon pricing usually takes the form of a carbon tax or a requirement to purchase permits to emit (also called “allowances”).

Carbon Offsetting
Offsetting happens when the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of one activity are cancelled out (or offset) by emissions reductions from another activity. Firms, organisations or people can fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as tree planting, developing renewable energy and making buildings or factories more energy efficient. Carbon offsets let you pay to reduce the global GHG total instead of making reductions of your own.

http://www.capturedcarbon.ie
Captured Carbon, Malahide, Co. Dublin

http://www.carbonneutral.com
CarbonNeutral Company, King’s Cross, London, UK
Ecological Footprinting
An ecological footprint measures how much people take from nature. The footprint is then compared to what natural resources there are to provide for people. The ecological footprint takes into account how much farmland, forest area, grazing land and sea area it takes to provide everything people use. When analysing the world as a whole, the footprint accounts show that humanity is using nature about 1.5 times faster than nature renews itself. It is also possible to calculate how many planets it would take if everybody around the world consumed like a particular population. For example, if everyone lived the lifestyle of the average American we would need 4 planet Earths.

We envision that most people would calculate their own personal ecological footprint using an online calculator. This would provide valuable feedback in terms of the most effective changes that people could make so as to reduce their footprints. Stalls would be set up in the main pedestrian areas of the city to allow people have their footprint calculated.

The City Council would also carry out an annual ecological footprint analysis for the entire city that would help guide policy decisions. Businesses and organisations would also be encouraged to determine their footprints so as to inform future strategy.

http://www.footprintnetwork.org
Global Footprint Network, Geneva, Switzerland