With credits to Simon Steinberger - Pixabay

Will CO2-emission rights replace money?

During the current covid-19 crisis we have seen interruptions in parts of supply chain ecosystems around the world. This has led to a reduction in emissions from production sites, from transportation and from consumers clearing the skies in those areas where the interruption was most prevalent (see examples of Italy, China and France in the endnotes [i]), [ii]), [iii])).

“see and hear birds without being interrupted by aeroplanes”

The magnificent Himalaya peaks can now even be seen from as far as 125 miles away [iv]), and much closer to home I can see and hear birds without being interrupted by aeroplanes that take-off or land on the nearby airport.

Don’t get me wrong, the Covid-crisis is terrible for everyone who is directly or indirectly impacted, however the overall side-effect is immediately and blatantly visible in the blossoming spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

With currently roughly 7.79 billion people on this globe [v]) and growing by 94.8 thousand per day it is clear that we need to act for ourselves, our children, our families, our community and our world so that everyone can continue to enjoy this wonderful world.

Then why is it so difficult to change the world for the better? Of course this question can not be easily answered but it starts with the definition of “better” in relation to the world in which we live. In this article I will not focus on the phylosophical question of “better” and will stay closer to my comfort zone “business”.

“Money is not a good environmental sustainability differentiator”

In business money can buy us everything, but this trading means is not necessarily a good differentiator in terms of environmental sustainability. It values products and services based on what we as customers are willing to pay for them and what the suppliers of those products and services are willing to make as a profit.

Money simply does not intrinsicly include “environmental sustainability”, which is why we are struggling to change our world in that perspective. Anything that apparently is environmentally more sustainable is valued at a higher money price. This is strange considering that these often are local or regional products, with less impact on the environment, yet we need to pay a higher price for them. So the choice for many people is easy, they buy the cheaper product given that they can only buy so much with the money they earn.

“… select the products with the lowest impact on the CO2-emission”

What if we could use the technology we have available to reflect the supply chains in different terms? We could calculate for example the actual CO2-emissions of products through Bills of Materials, DRP-links, supply contracts and costing structures, without adding the concept of financial profit. We could then see that two similar products require different levels of CO2-emissions, which will enable us to take better environmentally sustainable decisions.

There is however still the fact that people get paid for their work in terms of money… What if you would pay people for their contribution to the supply chains in terms of CO2-emission rights? They would most probably display the same behaviour and select the products that have the lowest impact on the CO2-emission rights they have earned.

And then there is still the fact that businesses depend on profits to invest and grow, which is probably why CO2-emission rights will not replace money very soon, or ever.


[i]  https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/30/europe-breathes-fresher-air-under-lockdown-as-coronoavirus-measures-ease-pollution

[ii] https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/2/21161324/coronavirus-quarantine-china-maps-air-pollution

[iii] https://sciencebusiness.net/covid-19/news/covid-19-cutting-air-pollution-it-will-not-slow-climate-change

[iv] https://www.dailysabah.com/life/environment/peaks-of-himalayas-now-visible-from-india-for-first-time-in-30-years-thanks-to-reduced-pollution-in-lockdown

[v] https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

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