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Carbon Footprints: The Path to Climate Neutrality

Low energy consumption must be worth it, says Steinbeis expert Jürgen Gackstatter

The shocking reality of extreme weather once again highlights the fact that the days of greenwashing are over (greenwashing: trying to look environmentally responsible but not actually doing what is required to be green). What’s needed now is public policy that takes climate change mitigation seriously. This is the opinion held by our author Jürgen Gackstatter, an entrepreneur at climate solutions, the Steinbeis Consulting Center. Gackstatter calls for climate impacts to be reflected in prices, based on hard facts.

There are now exchanges where carbon certificates can be traded to offset emissions. It is here that you really see the price of environmentally harmful gases. Certificate prices, which reflect emission budgets, have been rising for months. In May, a ton of carbon dioxide was valued at €50. Put simply, political commitment to serious climate protection does have an effect. European politicians are planning to restrict permissible carbon dioxide budgets, a move that would push prices up even further.

Electricity, the future form of energy, is still determined by the costs of fossil power plants. If you want to secure electricity supplies starting mid-2022, you currently pay roughly €64 per megawatt-hour. Prices in Germany for such deals have virtually doubled since 2017 and continue to rise. Aside from Denmark, Germany has the highest end customer electricity prices in Europe – entirely in keeping with the logic of climate neutrality.

But it is also clear that if you want to bring about the required changes in environmental protection, it will not be enough to limit carbon budgets – not by itself. German climate protection legislation is continuing to reduce carbon emissions, but without defining how targets will be achieved in concrete terms. Emission trading is mainly driving developments in the electricity market, as will be seen in the fall of 2021 with further price rises.

The solution: reduced carbon footprints in all areas

Why does this economic mechanism only work in the electricity market, and not across the whole energy industry? The prices for heating energy and gasoline have not doubled over the last four years. The answer is simple: The other sectors of industry are not subject to emission trading. Carbon taxes were not set until late 2020/early 2021. At €25 per ton of carbon, they are half the cost of carbon certificates traded on exchanges – nothing other than perplexing, given that it is the same carbon dioxide doing the same damage to the climate. The sobering explanation for this is that higher prices would not go down well among members of the general public. But that does not change the fact that there is only one constructive solution: reductions in the carbon footprints of consumers, housing, and transportation.

So what does sustainable behavior on the part of consumers look like? For every decision, rising energy prices should be factored in and more emphasis should be placed on less consumption, i.e. improved efficiency. What we need are carbon footprints for products, so consumers or anyone using deliveries and services have clear information. Our open and democratic society must make climate protection integral to its actions. The best way to do this is to set prices for the aspect of climate impact – based on facts. The alternative would be to put the well-being of future generations at risk.

The climate solutions Steinbeis Consulting Center helps customers determine their corporate carbon footprint (CCF) based on the guidelines of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Understanding your CCF lays an important foundation for the development of a more far-reaching climate protection strategy. It also makes it possible to identify potential to make savings, to decide which levers to pull, to develop measures accordingly, and ultimately to define climate protection targets.