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Climate Fair: Taking responsibility instead of just "compensating"

Heidelberg. According to surveys, we are very environmentally conscious in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Every two years the Federal Environment Agency asks Germans about their attitude towards the environment. "Around two-thirds (64 percent) of people in Germany consider environmental and climate protection to be a very important challenge, eleven percent more than in 2016," says the Press release from the Federal Environment Agency last survey 2018.

97 Prozent Almost as many perceive the plastic waste in the world's oceans as threatening, as do the deforestation of forests. 89 percent of those questioned consider the extinction of species in the flora and fauna and climate change to be risks.

But in everyday life, the commitment quickly falls by the wayside. Germans cover more than two-thirds of their journeys by car - even if it's just to get bread from the bakery around the corner. The proportion of gas-guzzling SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) continues to grow and meat consumption (almost 60 kilos per person per year) is hardly falling. Until the beginning of the corona pandemic, the number of air passengers rose year after year at rates that other branches of the economy can only dream of.

Commitment ends with convenience

“It's easy to find that there should be fewer cars overall, but then on the other hand to drive because you're too lazy to ride a bike. Unfortunately, environmental awareness often stops at your own doorstep and when you look into your own wallet, ”adds the Deutsche Welle the problem in a nutshell.

Anyone who continues to fly and drive a car can hardly "offset" their greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 calculator determine the emissions of a flight or a car trip on the Internet. To "compensate" you transfer a donation to an organization like Atmosfair or myclimatewho, for example, use it to buy more energy-efficient stoves for poor families in Africa. The recipients then no longer have to cut down the last trees to warm their food over an open fire.

Problem: Most providers of these “compensations” only charge 2 to 15 euros for a ton of CO25, although the Federal Office already more than two years ago reduced the damage that a ton of CO2 causes to the atmosphere to at least 180 Euros has estimated. In addition, no one can say for sure how long the stoves bought from the compensation payments will last and whether people are actually using them.

"We sell a guilty conscience, not a good one"

That's why Peter Kolbe from the sells Klimaschutz Plus Foundation  a bad conscience rather than a good conscience in Heidelberg. You cannot “compensate” for your flights and other climate-damaging behavior. He makes this clear with a comparison: "If I dump poison into a forest, I can't solve it by having someone else take it out again at some point, and certainly not if the person who is supposed to take it out hires a third party, who takes decades of time. ”That is the logic of CO2 compensation.

Internalize follow-up costs of our economic activity

Instead, Kolbe wants us to take responsibility for our actions ourselves: To do this, we would have to pay the follow-up costs of our business, i.e. internalize them. The prices of the products must include the environmental follow-up costs of their manufacture and use. Organic food, for example, would then hardly be more expensive than "conventionally" grown ones.

Currently, those who produce the cheapest are those who do not include the follow-up costs of what they do in their product prices. It passes these external costs on to the general public or future generations. Those who pollute the environment without paying for it create a competitive advantage.

According to a study by the UN world food organization FAO, the ecological follow-up costs of our agriculture alone add up to around the world two trillion dollars  In addition, there are social follow-up costs, for example for the treatment of people who have poisoned themselves with pesticides. According to estimates by the Soil and More Foundation from the Netherlands, 20.000 to 340.000 farm workers die every year from poisoning from pesticides. 1 to 5 million suffer from it.

Billions from the tax treasury for the destruction of nature

Even more. In many cases, taxpayers subsidize the destruction of our livelihoods. The German state alone subsidizes climate-damaging fossil technologies with around 57 billion euros . In addition, there are billions for conventional agriculture that the European Union recently released again. The EU is distributing almost 50 billion euros “with the watering can”. 

For every hectare that the farmers cultivate, they get 300 euros per year, regardless of what they do in the land. Those who grow cheap, fast-growing monocultures with a lot of chemistry earn the most.

Take responsibility yourself

Peter Kolbe from Klimaschutz Plus recommends a voluntary CO2 tax of 180 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide to all who really want to do something for environmental and climate protection Climate Fair. Those who cannot pay that much are also welcome with a smaller donation. The Klimaschutz Plus Foundation uses it to finance solar and wind power plants in Germany as well as energy-saving projects. These generate a return, which the foundation transfers annually to a fund together with five percent of your foundation capital. This finances citizen projects. Every year, the donors decide for themselves in online votes what happens with the money for the local community fund.

Kolbe, who is an energy consultant with the Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, works like everyone else at Klimaschutz Plus on a voluntary basis for the foundation. In this way, everyone involved keeps the administrative effort low. Almost all of the income goes to climate protection. They are displacing coal, gas and other fossil fuels from our supply system.

Climate protection at home

The results of several surveys also encourage Kolbe to invest in climate protection in Germany - although it is more expensive here than in Africa, for example. In a study by the Federal Environment Agency on environmental awareness, the majority of those surveyed in 2017 stated that they primarily want climate protection in Germany.

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Written by Robert B. Fishman

Freelance author, journalist, reporter (radio and print media), photographer, workshop trainer, moderator and tour guide

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