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Jim Johnson - Chairman, Carbon Planet

Jim Johnson
'We are an organisation that provides products and services to, what we call now, the carbon economy, which is the world response to carbon change.'

While the Australian government prepares to launch its Emissions Trading Scheme in 2010, one carbon management company is miles ahead in the race to reduce Australia's carbon footprint.

Chairman of Carbon Planet, Jim Johnson is leading the environmentally conscious company in taking tangible carbon reduction actions. Tackling this generation's biggest crisis, Jim discusses the business of global warming.

What is Carbon Planet?

We are an organisation that provides products and services to, what we call now, the carbon economy, which is the world response to carbon change. We provide greenhouse gas, energy and life cycle analysis audits. We also give advice on how to reduce emissions to eventually offset carbon footprint.

On the other side of the economy, we have the originators, who are creating carbon credits either through forestry or renewable energy projects and we help them realise their carbon credits through assessments and verifications. We then help them trade their carbon credits to generate revenue from their efforts.

What are carbon credits?

It's the currency of climate change. A carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere. For every one tonne of CO2 that you reduce, you are awarded one carbon credit.

FYI Carbon credits can be bought and sold between international businesses. Large emitters buy credits from less carbon-intensive businesses to lower their carbon footprint and vice versa.

Who came up with the idea behind Carbon Planet?

Carbon Planet was first conceived by Dr Ross Williams in 2000. Ross is very much a visionary in technology and the environment. He was a business partner of mine in our previous software company called Rocksoft Limited. Ross Williams and Dave Sag are the founders of Carbon Planet, which started to operate and trade in 2005.

FYI Dr Ross Williams has a PhD in computer science from the University of Adelaide. Co-founder Dave Sag is a pioneer of the Australian carbon management industry, with expertise in carbon accounting, engineering, trading and offsetting.

Why did you decide to join Carbon Planet?

It was a combination of elements. All of us at Carbon Planet feels strongly about environmental issues and want a great change in the carbon reduction agenda. There was also the challenge of growing a business in a whole new industry.

Are there many carbon-reducing companies in Australia?

Yes, there are quite a few emerging. A number of the consulting firms are moving into this area. There are also boutique companies, and slightly larger ones like us.

What kind of companies seek your help?

We have a mix actually, from the FTSE 100 down to small and medium enterprises, and we do a lot of work with individuals. On our website, you will find ways to calculate carbon emission reduction in your home and strategies you can adopt as an individual in a community.

FYI FTSE 100 refers to the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Do you personally get involved with the carbon assessments?

No, I've got a lot of smarter people than me to do that. We have a team of about a dozen scientists and engineers who are involved in the scientific assessments.

What is your background?

I've been in the information technology sector for about 25 years. In the last 15 to 20 years, I've been either building or helping build companies that had developed new and emerging technology in Australia, and wanted to take them into the global market.

I had a consulting firm for eight years that helped Australian companies commercialise and export their technologies.

Other than environmental benefits, what do businesses gain by reducing their carbon footprint?

I believe Australia will adopt what's called a cap and trade system, whereby organisations that exceed a certain level of carbon emissions are going to have to buy carbon credits to offset those emissions   which will cost them money. So, apart from saving the environment, we are also going to be saving the business money.

How well is the Australian government doing in reducing its carbon footprint since we signed the Kyoto Protocol?

The Australian government is to be applauded. They are showing leadership in this area. Obviously there is a lot of homework to be done, but I'm seeing a great deal of strength and commitment from this government in tackling the agenda that they agreed to.

The government has the NGER act now. Starting with the large emitters, formal greenhouse gas audits have to be submitted to the government.

FYI NGER act refers to National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007.

Do you practice what you preach?

We were the first company of our kind to be certified greenhouse friendly for our own operations. We have a social responsibility unit within the company called My Carbon Planet, where we help organisations offset carbon during various community events.

We've developed an education program for primary school children called Operation Coolenation. It's a complete primary school teacher's resource to teach climate change to their children. Our plan is to launch that imminently and give that to primary schools in Australia at no cost.

What is the most overlooked carbon footprint increasing habit in the work place?

From our research today, it's the management of energy. Very few of the buildings in Australia are green. You flick one light switch on and 300 bulbs light up. It is the biggest and easiest thing for businesses to start adopting.

What's the most difficult part of being Chairman?

The most difficult part of being the chairman of this company is knowing which opportunities to ignore. Carbon Planet is one of the first movements in this industry, so we've been inundated by just about everybody with an interest in climate change. The challenge has been to focus on the things we will be good at and knowing the areas to leave alone to others.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

I am very much a people person. I get to work every day with a group of people who are passionate about the environment and I make a living out of it as well. It reminds me of when actors, entertainers and elite sports people say 'We get paid to do what we love best', and I get a very similar sense with the gang at Carbon Planet.

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