Rooftop solar, savings and compost cut carbon footprint

What Australians believe are the best actions they can take to reduce their carbon footprint are not necessarily the most effective.

A report from investment manager Australian Ethical, drawing on research by the UTS Business School and Lonergan Research, shows how people could better use their time, money and energy.

“Australians are already seeing and feeling firsthand the impact of climate change, with an increase in extreme weather events like floods, droughts and fires,” Australian Ethical spokeswomen Maria Loyez said.

Most (96 per cent) of Australians surveyed say they are taking action to help limit global warming but are under-estimating the changes needed.

And many aren’t sure what generates the most carbon emissions.

The top three sources of emissions are electricity and heat, agriculture and transport, the report explained.

Australians are among the world’s biggest emitters, producing on average 15.4 tonnes of emissions per person each year.

That would need to drop to two tonnes on average per Australian as a contribution to limiting global warming to below two degrees – not 5.5 tonnes as many believed.

The survey found Australians thought they should take shorter showers, recycle, install rooftop solar, turn appliances off at the wall, and dry clothes on a rack or clothesline instead of a dryer to live more sustainably.

They’re partly correct.

Rooftop solar, switching to a green electricity plan, going car-free or driving a hybrid or electric vehicle, and moving superannuation to an ethical fund would make the biggest difference to individual emissions.

Of the carbon reduction options, living car-free was believed to require the most amount of effort, followed by switching to an electric or hybrid car.

“Composting organic waste and switching super or investments to an ethical/responsible fund sit squarely in the sweet spot of high potential impact with a medium degree of effort,” the report said.

Although 86 per cent have their retirement savings in a superannuation fund, only two in five identified as an investor.

UTS found Australians’ abilities to choose lower carbon investments by switching to an ethical or responsible fund was the “sleeping giant” in the potential carbon impact.

Australians have more than $3.3 trillion in super investments alone and this is projected to grow to $10.5 trillion by 2040.

Yet the vast majority surveyed were unaware that where they invest their superannuation can direct money away from companies that are contributing to climate change.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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