Redefining Equality : Annual Carbon Footprint Allowance for all
Here’s a (somewhat provocative) thought. Establish an annual Carbon Footprint Maximum (CFM) per citizen. Consider it a maximum allowance, one you can spend as desired, but can never exceed. With this kind of measure every single person would be given the opportunity to really think about the real value, the true ‘cost’ of products and services and therefore make well-informed, conscious decisions. Besides it could be a tool that provides pure equality among people. No matter how much money you own, wealth and comfort is only gained if value is spent to resource productivity and sustainability.
What if besides a price tag, every single product had an emission tag as well. And what if every purchase at the checkout would credit your carbon footprint points? We all know how to deal with financial budgets, most of us anyway. We know bills have precedence over luxuries. We all understand that we have to back off a little when money runs tight and when we can spoil ourselves. We all know these things because we are aware of the cost of things and of our financial abilities and constraints. If products and lifestyles were free, we all would spend like Kim & Kanye right? If products aren’t free of cash value, then why are they free of an emission value?
We would have to make choices
The meat and dairy industries are the biggest polluters and beef in specific is the leading one. According to a study published in New Scientist magazine, producing 1kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home. 
You choose to eat meat and dairy, fine, but since you can’t exceed your CFM, you will have to make adjustments on other aspects of your life. Think of energy neutral housing, transportation, leisure etc. You like exotic fruits and veggies that have to travel half the world? (Honestly I do). Well, maybe not so much after all, once you come to realize you can’t really ‘afford’ it. Maybe you’ll have to choose: Do I buy two new pairs of leather boots this year, eat tropical fruits year-round, or go buy a plane ticket to a place I also can travel to by train? And it wouldn’t matter (from a climate point of view at least, the ethical discussion is another one) which one you choose, because when the figures are added up, these all would cancel each other out and we all (rich or poor) would have the same maximum impact on our planet. Fair and square. And if we’d think productively and ingeniously we could even use less while doing and having more, creating some kind of savings. Since consumers hold the power, corporate social responsibility would follow inevitably. Could something like this even challenge the money system as we know it? Could it be a catalyst for a self-sustaining, non-capitalist system with free access to anything with zero environmental impact, which naturally allows for abundance?
You could wonder, why restrict our selves in such ways? Is it too harsh, too rigid? Well jobs, money, salaries and loans are restrictive, but we often don’t receive them to be, because we’re used to the system. I don’t know anything about economics or governance, so excuse me if this is downright ridiculous or if it’s not in a million year implemental in practice, but I firmly believe that we should feel free to address issues, thoughts and ideas that, although maybe stupid, childish or utopian, could contribute to awareness at some level or could inspire someone else to come up with ideas that are in fact workable. You and me bringing in good energy, modest ideas and tiny pieces into the greater, terribly complicated puzzle are vital. We have to rethink the established paradigm and some provocation and contrariness can sometimes be the right trigger, creating little sparks of inspiration.
So are measures like a Carbon Footprint Max even really extreme?
- Extreme weather conditions due to climate change destroy our infrastructures and societies, our homes and families;
- Extreme drought and food shortages unchain wars;
- 805 million (that’s 1 in 9) people are undernourished, yet we keep using grain to feed livestock and for biofuels;
- Dubai has no water, yet expends immense amounts of energy to desalinate seawater and build the world’s highest skyscrapers in the world. Dubai has endless sun but just until recently no solar panels. 
- 5000 people a day die because of dirty drinking water, while we waste 15.000 liters of water to the production of 1 kilogram of beef;
So the challenges are real. Even when measures seem extreme at first glance, we deserve and owe it to ourselves to keep the cycle of life that was given to us going. Because in the end it comes down to simple things we take for granted: clean air to breath in, a thriving planet for all living beings and a fair chance for our children to live in a just, healthy and war-free world. So let’s keep questioning the established order and let’s not be afraid of making fools of ourselves by getting involved in the debate. One can only learn from asking, sharing, questioning, listening and engaging.
With love from the Happy Earth Kitchen.
2. HOME (documentary, 2009) – Yann Arthus-Bertrand