Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Accounting for carbon

Today in Copenhagen government representatives from all over the world are trying to agree on how much carbon each country will be allowed to pump into the atmosphere in the coming years. At the Accounting and Bookkeeping College we hope that they will be able to put the interests of the planet above those of their government to ensure a sustainable future for us all.

At first sight there is very little in common between business bookkeeping and accounting for carbon outputs. The fundamental principle of double-entry bookkeeping, after all, demands that, for every transaction, we know where money, or value, comes from as well as where it goes to and when we have properly accounted for both then our books will balance. Carbon seems not to be like that and our carbon budget, in some cases, appears to be limited only by our financial resources, or money in other words. It seems we are unable even now to break this link so that wealthier nations want to use their money at Copenhagen to buy, as cheaply as possible, the opportunity to burn fossil fuels off poorer and less-developed neighbours.

If, however, we came to see carbon as a currency in its own right, and not one that could be cheaply exchanged for dollars or euros, then our whole approach to this emergency would change because every single person, business, organisation and population would have to take responsibility for staying in credit. Then we would all need to learn how to balance the books.