South Africa is on a list, along with 15 other countries, that are collectively responsible for 72% of global CO2 emissions. South Africa therefore bears a serious responsibility to humanity to change its emission trajectory.
This is not negotiable.
However as CarbonBrief points out:
Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent scientific analysis produced by three research organisations tracking climate action, rates South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) as “highly insufficient.” This means South Africa’s pledge is outside a “fair share” of the emissions cuts needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and “not at all” consistent with limiting global warming to less than 2C or 1.5C. If all governments had similar targets, global temperature rise would likely reach 3-4C by 2100.
A 3-4°C rise makes extinction of all life on earth a very real possibility.
The South African Government must act. However pressure to act is not going to come from the electorate. The reason for that becomes clear when considering recent research that shows a whopping 54% of the population have never heard of climate change.
Are we heading to a situation where economic sanctions could again be used by the international community to force change in South Africa, as it did during the apartheid era? That is a definite possibility as the seriousness of the global situation becomes clearer with each passing month and pressure to reduce emissions grows more urgent.
It is my opinion that the private sector can do a lot to get the government to act, but first they need to do everything in their power to get their own carbon house in order.
So where can a business start the process of decoupling from the fossil fuel driven economy?
Step 1: Get up to speed with the latest science ensuring that any action taken is based on a solid carbon literacy foundation. Understand what the current science is recommending needs to happen immediately for us to keep global warming below 1.5°C. Understand how urgent it is for us to act and that this is in fact an emergency. High level we have to decouple the economy for fossil fuels. (In South Africa’s case 68% of our energy comes from coal, so moving away from coal to renewables would make a massive difference to our status on biggest polluters list. But as indicated above Government is behind on this commitment.)
Step 2: Do an audit to determine where fossil fuels touch your business. Be as detailed as possible so that you can create a comprehensive list.
Step 3: Put a strategy in place to decouple from those touch points. Take a look at the low hanging fruit first. Things that you can do in a relatively short space of time.
Here are some examples.
If your business operates out of an office building, how is the building powered? If you are dependent on grid power you are burning coal everyday. Can you turn the building green by installing a solar energy system? If it is a rented property can you negotiate with your landlord to install solar?
Looking at your office setup should lead to another conversation, which is, do you need the office at all? Today, the technology is available to create a well designed “office in the cloud.” A digital workplace will enable you to allow flexible and remote working and when planned and rolled out properly render the need for an office obsolete. If you can do that you will dramatically slash your carbon emissions!
This decision will have another impact. You will effectively end the need for staff daily commutes which will create a further emission cuts from motor vehicles taken off the road. As an example, recently, Costa Rica passed a law around working from home and they estimate by doing so they will remove 24,000 cars from San Jose’s greater metropolitan area removing 28.6 billion tons Of CO2.
While on the topic of transportation. Does your business require staff to fly to meetings or events? Flying is one of the most carbon intensive forms of transport. Do you really have to fly to that business meeting or event? With the well designed digital workplace discussed above, you would have access to video which can be great substitute for most meetings.
Making the above changes:
Getting your office building off the coal grid
Reducing the need for office space or eliminating the need altogether
Enabling flexible and remote working to end the office commute
Reducing flying dramatically and meeting online instead
are all low hanging fruit that Conscious Business should pick immediately. Be the leader in your industry by setting the example and hopefully getting others to follow and then from that position pressuring Government to follow suite.
If you would like to begin the conversation around designing an office in the cloud and enabling flexible and remote working reach out here and lets begin your carbon reduction journey.