When I show people this book, the title alone is often enough to launch them into a uncontrollable tirade about how it's not possible. But carbon neutrality is quite straight forward, and something very possible indeed.
The three steps -
1. Account for your carbon footprint
2. Reduce your carbon footprint
3. Purchase off-sets that bring you to zero.
Carbon Neutral by 2020, How New Zealanders can tackle climate change is a collection of sixteen essays by leading experts about how their specific industries can achieve this seemingly lofty goal. Each essay is a road-map for one sector - how to get there on time. It's a silver bullet for the normal reaction - the one that presumes impossibility - to read Thinking outside the car: How we can achieve carbon neutral transport, Responsible Investing, Carbon neutral living in the typical New Zealand house and Schools in a carbon neutral world together.
I've met Dr. Nikki Harre, who co-edited the book with Dr. Quentin D. Atkinson. Like the book, she was approachable, well informed and clear about the message: Being carbon neutral doesn't mean going backwards on anything, it's a method of moving the whole planet forward.
This book does more than just present solutions to the problem of climate change. It also presents visions for a better society, one that is cleaner and fairer and encourages people to be their best. The authors have tried to be realistic in their visions - they understand that you cannot unpick all the deeply interwoven practices and ways of thinking that have got us into this predicament in one fell swoop. But they also understand that you have to take a few risks and have faith that people are willing to give up some of their dubious luxuries for the sake of a healthier world.
What Carbon Neutral by 2020 doesn't present is the concept of an enforced global movement or liken the required course of action to the re-configuration of society during war. Each chapter assumes, for the most part, that existing framework will remain the same as it is today - an expectation that I find very realistic. It's also heartening - that a carbon neutral country can be achieved by 2020 and be quite recognisable as a futuristic city.
The only conclusion I don't agree with in this book is stay put - in relation to where you live. While most people live in suburbs - no thanks. There are much better places to live than the place you probably live now. At Worldchanging we often talk about residential solutions such as green building, urbanisation and density. Realistic predictions say that by 2030, about half of the buildings in America will have been built after 2000. New Zealand can match that - and we can build it all green - and find our carbon neutral lives much richer for it. There will be a process of moving in to these new homes - dense, comfortable, walkable and near the other places we go - and that process will make homeowners and the planet better off in the short run and the long run. My advice - find a good place to live and move there. Then stay put.
The New Zealand Government has committed six departments to becoming carbon neutral by 2012, with all other departments on the path to carbon neutrality by that date. We've written about other New Zealand carbon neutral operations here before, including a power company and an airport. It's possible for the rest of New Zealand to follow, and become carbon neutral by 2020.
- Craig Neilson