NatWest’s Carbon Count App

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This isn’t going to work, isn’t going to work at all:

NatWest is to become the first major UK bank to tell its customers the carbon footprint of their spending.
In what it called a “UK banking first”, the banking group which has 16 million customers across all of its brands, will trial a new app which will tell its personal banking customers the emissions impact of their shopping choices.
Around 500 customers will take part in the initial trial and, if successful, the initiative could be rolled out to millions more.
The consumers will connect their bank account to the app and, using a system developed by tech firm CoGo, it will automatically calculate a real-time carbon footprint, based on the individual’s spending.
NatWest said it will update with every spend showing the climate impact of everything “from morning coffee to lights out”.
They will also be given tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint, including lowering meat intake and switching to renewable energy providers.
Emma Kisby, managing director of CoGo, said she hoped the technology would help “nudge [consumers] towards actions and suggested businesses to help drive to a sustainable lifestyle”.

Firstly, we hit the basic Hayek Problem – this is too complex to be calculable. So, you buy a cup of coffee, what’s the footprint? If it’s industrially grown then that’s one set of fertilisers, chemicals, fuels, used. If wild, or organic, then that’s a different set – including more land to make up for the less industrial parts. The energy used to boil the water comes from? The cup is of what type? Etc.

The same is true of everything. It’s simply not possible to even collect the information to make the calculation let alone do it in anything like real time.

Then there’s a slightly different problem. As carbon footprints decline elsewhere and the world all becomes more digital we see that the tech giants are being shouted at about their own energy consumption. Some estimates have this at 8%, 10% of global. What’s the one thing this app isn’t going to tell you? Stop using the damn app and its energy consumption…..

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Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Also, travel is about the worst part of people’s consumption. 404g/mile of CO2. If you nip to your Starbucks 2 miles away for a cappucino, that’s 1600g of CO2 for travel vs about 235g for the coffee (I’m using numbers from the EPA and The Guardian).

If you care about the environment, rather than just eco bragging, the first thing to do is to get as much delivered as possible. It’s far more efficient than everyone getting in cars.

Spike
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Spike

Sorry, still stuck on the underlying problem, the unknowability of runaway* man-caused* global heating-or-cooling or the focus on CO2 as the solution. We have been around for a million years, including ice ages and cataclysms way beyond our ability, some requiring us to pick up and move. The Earth is robust and it radiates excess energy back into space. An app to tell you what to order at Starbucks is pure vanity.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

The problem is that there’s no arguing over that stuff. There’s a whole lot of models produced by a whole lot of scientists that are really hard for the layman to decode, or even to argue about. And overwhelmingly, the establishment and a large chunk of the public support it. Fighting it is an unwinnable position at this point. Another decade of data showing the accuracy of the models and people might start getting more skeptical. But you can fight what you do within that. The thing with a lot of “eco” types is that they’re really communists. They don’t… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Precisely because “a lot…are really communists,” a market-based solution to their stated problem (even a carbon tax designed by a scholar like Tim) will not make them shut up. I don’t like debating the most efficacious way to surrender to unreason and that is why I haven’t given to the New Hampshire Republican Party in decades.

Wheels
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Wheels

Most decisions in life are not between good and bad but between bad and a little bit worse. So you feel proud you don’t give to the republicans. Ok, you’ll get a little bit worse.

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

The analogy I use is the mediaeval catholic church selling indulgences. Pure hucksterism.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

Climate change does seem to be a Christian heresy.

Hell is in the indefinite future rather than after death. The self-appointed priesthood of Holy Mother Gaia love to jet off to some tropical Eden where they can bitch to each other about the gross over-indulgence of the lower orders.

You vile white plebs are guilty/guilty/guilty and must atone for the sin of your existence by giving us the elite, lots and lots of cash. Selling carbon credits/indulgences fits in neatly with this approach.

John B
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John B

And it would be too much to hope the public will have twigged from the recent virus expert/model/following the science fiasco with the shifting aims of Government measures based on unflasifiable ‘science’ – the never ending movement of goal posts in worship to the precautionary principle.

Ltw
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Ltw

Bugger the accuracy thing. They don’t care about that. Its purpose is to scare the bejeezus out of people. Then there’s the important bit

The consumers will connect their bank account to the app

No, and hell no. And If I banked with NatWest, I’d be closing my accounts.

Spike
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Spike

In favor of whom? See https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/02/business/bank-of-america-billion-dollar-donation/index.html, “Bank of America pledges $1 billion to fight racial inequality” (inequality of what?). “exacerbated by Covid-19…underlying economic and social disparities” (surely including differing tastes and preferences).

Economic regulation has led to such banking consolidation that the only way they can differentiate themselves is by POSTURING.

john77
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john77

@ Spike
It’s always inequality of outcome regardless of input.
I hope that Chinese-Americans will desert Bank of America in droves as it is working to overturn the landmark case on racial injustice that they won against the State of California on their racial quota system for university admissions when the (I think Supreme) Court ruled that depriving Chinese-Americans of places to allocate them to inferior candidates of other races (mostly black but in theory could be white) was not merely unjust but also against the law.

Spike
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Spike

The big news in California is that Ward Connerly’s brilliant amendment to the California constitution to ban racism in government (even remedial/retaliatory racism) risks being repealed by a question on the state’s November ballot.

The Bakke case at the Supreme Court was from Texas. The dominant admissions case was the University of Michigan one, where Justice O’Connor endorsed racism if sufficiently gussied up, but hoped it “would only last” 25 years.

Chinese-Americans may desert Bank of America, but its forte in pandering is outreach to “Americans” who don’t speak English and have no identification other than a matricula consular mexicano.

Ltw
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Ltw

@Spike, I wasn’t thinking about woke wastage. I agree that’s unavoidable and I wouldn’t bother boycotting an organisation over it. I was thinking about the security implications of linking account data to some random app designer.

Spike
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Spike

Point taken; I don’t avail myself of all of my credit-union’s online banking options, as some rely on a third party for verification by means of disclosing additional data to…who, again?

Still, this piece of it I reckon NatWest has thought through, and if you don’t want to make the disclosures to use the app, there are workarounds short of (ack!!) closing your account.

john77
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john77

How does it measure the carbon footprint of daily or weekly shop at Tesco/Sainsbury/Morrison/Waitrose let alone cash payments? Admittedly the carbon footprint of my current cash spending is quite small as it’s mostly the market fish and fruit & vegetable stalls but in normal times I use cash to all cheap items like bread and milk and newspapers
It’s another case of utter nonsense served up by Marketing department.

CJ Nerd
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CJ Nerd

This reminds me of the old quote about working in the Soviet Union.

They pretend to tell us what our carbon footprint is, and we pretend to care.

As long as NatWest get some kudos from mildly appeasing the hand-knitted-yoghourt brigade, I suspect no-one gives a stuff.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

It isn’t really the hand-knitted-yoghourt brigade. It’s the hypocritical middle class MILFs who drive Chelsea tractors take long haul flights, but will call you out in the office for throwing a can in the regular trash. The whole purpose of this is the same reason that people go on long haul holidays to sit on a similar beach to one in Spain: so that the wife can show off just how much more successful she is to her non-friends. “look how much more I care about the planet as I am saving 5g of CO2 from buying recycled tissues”. I’m… Read more »

CJ Nerd
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CJ Nerd

Good point- the yoghurt knitters probably don’t have the clout, the hypocritical MILFS do.

Still, virtue signalling is its own reward.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Thank the Lord I don’t bank with them, for if I did changing to another bank, to avoid this nonsense, would be a pain in the proverbial.

jgh
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jgh

I’ve banked with Yorkshire Bank since the mid-1970s. They’ve gone through several changes of ownership since then, but they’ve always been Yorkshire Bank. The current owner is now rebranding the bank as Virgin Bank, which feels like them ripping the heart from something. I hate what they’re doing to “my” bank, but I would hate the hassle of moving my banking. It’ll mess up my statement numbering! I’ve almost got to four digits!

Spike
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Spike

We have all missed something simple! NatWest is not rolling out this app to help their customers preen and pander (in which case accurate and inaccurate measurements are equally useful), nor especially to Save the Planet.

They are doing it to collect information on customer preferences and purchases, which is worth its weight in gold to marketeers!

Grendel
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Grendel

It’s an interesting idea, and something I looked into it a couple of years ago… even without Tim’s very valid points, it’s just not viable without buy-in from every retailer and service provider unless it is to have wildly inaccurate results. How do you convert from a payment to Tesco, EasyJet etc. into a carbon footprint using only the information on your bank statement? Where is that plane going to? Was it delayed? How efficient is it? Did I buy fancy beans or a steak at the supermarket? What about the farmers’ market where I used cash? Just how environmentally… Read more »

John B
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John B

Why would any sane, reasoning, intelligent thinker want to know their ‘carbon footprint’ (they mean carbon dioxide foot print, but CO2 does not leave a footprint and carbon only does if it’s soot and you stand in it) or care?

And even knowing this useless bit of faux-info, what would anyone be able to do with it? Change spending? How will it be possible to know if the new spending is better/worse/the same?

jgh
Guest
jgh

I want to know my electricity usage because I want to know how much my bills are going to be. But it;s more important to me to know how much my electricity usage is, not what my electricity usage is, and that information is already presented to me in the bill. I really only need to know my electricity usage itself if shopping around for different rates of price/usage. So you really only need to know your CO2 usage when shopping around for different CO2 prices, otherwise the information is already presented in the price you are paying for the… Read more »

Pat
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Pat

I suppose it could have the effect of telling people what their virtue signalling will cost them if they start practising what they preach.