New Ideas to Align Consumers’ Carbon Footprints with Global Carbon Budgets

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World Resources Institute

Do you know how much of the world’s carbon budget you “spend”? While individual amounts vary greatly, on a per capita basis each American emits more than 14 tons of greenhouse gases per year. The statistic globally is 4.47 tons per capita, with people in developed countries emitting 2-5 times the amount of carbon dioxide as those in emerging economies.

Meanwhile, the latest IPCC report finds that the world needs to cut emissions by nearly 50% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050 to prevent the worst effects of climate change. According to the IPCC, individual behavior change needs to be part of the solution — especially for the wealthiest 10% of households that are responsible for a whopping 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem is that most consumers don’t have a good understanding of how their actions affect greenhouse gas emissions.

While governments and corporations measure and quantify their emissions using greenhouse gas accounting methodologies and tools, consumers themselves lack data about their own carbon footprints. Imagine if we had better information to understand the emissions cost of our everyday decisions? Could we then shift our actions to reduce personal carbon “spending” toward the goal of a sustainable and prosperous net-zero economy?

Unfortunately, few tools exist to quantify individual carbon footprints, but we have some ideas on how businesses and others can provide consumers with the data they need. Here are three that could offer inspiration:

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