The Climate Neutral Group (CNG) is a boutique carbon management and offsetting firm established in 2001 in the Netherlands, with a presence in several European countries as well as South Africa since early 2012. The business has two sides: on one hand it works with companies in measuring, reducing and offsetting their carbon emissions, and on the other it invests in green energy projects across the globe. Franz Rentel, CNG’s Country Director for South Africa, sheds light on what it means to be climate neutral and how business travellers can make a difference.
Q: What does it mean to be climate neutral and why is it important?
A: Climate neutral quite simply means that any of your actions, such as flying, driving and using electricity, do not have a negative impact on the climate. Climate, or carbon, neutrality can be achieved by reducing carbon emissions as much as possible and offsetting the unavoidable emissions. Having no impact on the climate is crucial as we are burning more carbon than the planet can safely deal with.
Q: How is it possible to have climate neutral business operations?
A: The first step is to carry out a carbon footprint in order to understand where emissions in your business are generated. The second step is to develop a carbon reduction strategy with realistic targets, and thirdly to offset remaining emissions by using high quality offsets that are generated from certified clean energy or forestry projects elsewhere.
Q: Which travel-related industries have the largest CO2 emissions?
A: Flying has the largest carbon emissions (40%), followed by transportation (32%) and accommodation (24%).
Q: How can these industries reverse the damage they have inflicted on the environment?
A: It is impossible to reverse the damage as CO2 takes decades before it is fully absorbed by the oceans or trees. However, the travel industry can play a crucial role in mitigating its impact on the climate. For example, around half of the aviation fuel burned each year is due to attending conferences and meetings – so if the travel industry can be a climate leader much of the negative impact can be mitigated.
Q: How does Africa’s CO2 emissions compare to other continents?
A: Sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 2% to global carbon dioxide emissions, which is relatively low compared to other continents or regions. China, the US and the EU hold the top three spots. However, Africa’s emissions are rising fast due to rapidly developing economies and rising incomes. South Africa is ranked number 13 in the world, and contributes around 1.4% of global CO2 emissions. However, South Africa’s per capita emissions are relatively high compared to other developed countries – on par with Germany, Japan and Belgium – even though our economy is a fraction of the size. South Africa’s economy is way too carbon intensive.
Q: Which other African countries have the best and worst CO2 footprints?
A: South Africa contributes well over 40% of Africa’s total CO2 emissions. The second highest African country is Egypt, with 17% of the continent’s emissions. These figures are for the 2009 CO2 emissions from energy consumption only and do not include other greenhouse gases. Those African countries which are less industrialised generally have low emissions, for example Gambia, Chad and the Central African Republic.
Q: What is green electricity and what role does it play in a climate neutral future?
A: Green electricity is generated from renewable resources, such as wind, solar and water. More broadly, renewable energy plays a crucial role in a low carbon or carbon neutral future. The only way we can tackle climate change is to get off fossil fuels completely by 2050. The renewable energy technology is already available to make the transition. At the same time we need to restructure our economies to be less resource and carbon intensive.
Q: What can individuals do to reduce their own carbon footprint?
A: Eat more of the food you buy, and buy more locally-grown fruit and vegetables. Insulate your house and invest in solar panels for your house. Get on your bike, or at least drive a fuel efficient car and take public transport wherever possible. When making a purchase, choose quality over quantity, and always try to buy local. Monitor your electricity usage at home and the office.
Q: What role can business travellers play in transforming the landscape of the sphere of their influence?
A: If a business traveller extends what he or she is doing in their personal life into their working life, much of the carbon emissions can be cut. More specifically, business travellers need to always do all they can to cut the carbon emissions of their flights, transport and accommodation. By purchasing low carbon products and services we send a clear signal to the marketplace which can lead to transitioning to low carbon economies.