Why Politicians Should Lead On The Carbon Footprint Footpath


Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, offers his thoughts on the measurement of carbon footprints, and those whose footprints perhaps need the most careful measuring. 

footprintsFor the past 16 years, Grundon Waste Management has been measuring its carbon footprint. In line with most business rules, if it can’t be measured, then it can’t be controlled – so far, so good.

I enjoy the rationality and logic of business when it comes to decision making, or even to forming a reply to a difficult question. At times, whilst bringing up our children, it would have been very comforting to call upon a board of directors to answer such questions as ‘How does Father Christmas get down the chimney?’, or ‘Why is the sea salty?’ I’m sure that a diverse quorum of skilled directors would have been able to come up with far more plausible answers than I ever did.

Often, when we are personally absorbed in the great challenges of our age; watching the latest human catastrophe unravel on 24 hour rolling news, calculating sea ice melt or, closer to home, pondering our children’s future; our primary reaction is one of anxious impotence. Either that, or retweeting something, a sort of pass the parcel of inner angst.

It is only when we gather with our friends or family that we can truly unwrap life’s ugly gifts, safe in the knowledge that someone will have a good home for it and, if this just happens to be an environmental conundrum, then usually one of our elected representatives is duly informed. Now this is where sometimes, not always, the game begins again.

Pass The Parcel

Our elective representatives also love a good game of pass the parcel and, as we know, it is very difficult to measure a politician, (even harder if it’s an EU one), unless you use an arbitrary device such as their number of twitter followers.

Don’t joke – Charlie Brooker’s recent episode of Black Mirror set out a world in which our future personal prosperity will be governed by how many ‘likes’ we receive on a daily basis. In other words, depending how many quinoa and avocado nut biscuits politicians post themselves consuming, the more they will be able to buy into their own personal shtick.

Surely though, it would be far better to measure them on something more meaningful, starting with CO2 perhaps?

One of our better-known ‘green’ politicians recently wrote about 70% of flights being taken by 15% of the population. This was apparently in reference to a proposal by an environmental campaign group that ‘rich’ people should be taxed for taking flights which are ‘luxury travel’.

I suggest that whoever these people are, they are not the ones who use the overcrowded flying buses that take off from normal airports; squishing three days’ worth of clothing into their hand luggage, so they can make it to their vacuum-sealed hotel by 9pm and order a limp club sandwich; before writing their sales pitch for some cutting edge environmental technology to sell to a client in the lobby of anywhere hotel in anywhere land.

I am sure that when this erstwhile politician whisked off to Brussels every week she used a carbon free wind powered teleportation device – or not.

So here’s the deal. Let’s start with a personal carbon footprint published by every politician and NGO laying claim to our taxation. The Christmas spirit is allowing me to be generous, so I’m happy to say we should even allow some offsetting – presuming they can lay claim to individual personal achievements in rewriting or creating legislation that improves the UK environment or even works at a global level.

I believe that there is an app to help achieve such goals, although I thought it looked a bit clunky and definitely required a fair bit of effort from the individual involved.

What’s most important though, is not how they do it, but the fact they try. And if businesses can rise to the challenge, is it too much to ask for our leaders to be leading from the front?


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