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In China, the boom in applications to encourage individuals to reduce their carbon footprint

Screenshot of Hu Qi's phone, on her Lu Miao app, where she can track her daily carbon footprint.  Here, on March 2, 2023, she reduced it by 1,200 grams.

Shared bike rides, shopping in bulk stores, reduced purchases of clothes… Hu Qi, 29, an employee of a Web company in Shanghai, records every day in the Lu Miao community firmware, on the WeChat social network , the small gestures that reduce its carbon footprint. The tool is activated each time it travels without a car. Ditto when she buys a drink with her own mug. No more taxis and even the metro for journeys of 5 or 6 kilometres: make way for shared bikes. No more impulse purchases of clothes on Taobao, after a few awareness-raising events organized by the ” community “. “Now I can clearly know the magnitude of my effort, moreover, I receive gifts for it from Lu Miao. » On his account, Hu Qi displays a balance of 236 kg of CO2 “saved” in one year, slightly more than the emissions generated by a return flight between Paris and Rome in economy class.

Posted a year and a half ago, the firmware now brings together three million Internet users. It would have reduced CO emissions by 10,000 tonnes2says Jeff Chen, vice-president of the Miotech company, which developed it.

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To reduce the carbon footprint of individuals, multiple digital applications, developed in partnership with the public sector, have emerged in recent months in China. The gestures that make it possible to avoid emissions are recorded in real time in applications or firmware for which users have previously agreed to give up their personal data. The quantity of avoided emissions is directly calculated and recorded in the form of points. As a result, for users: access to discounts, even free access to a wide range of products and services, ranging from entry to tourist sites to gym memberships, including food.

Tree plantation

Could this addition of “small gestures” for the climate have an impact on China’s overall carbon footprint? The average carbon footprint of a Chinese is 6.7 tonnes of CO2 per year, an average certainly lower by 13% than that of an inhabitant of the European Union, but which has tripled in twenty years. For now, these devices are still experiments and are far from reaching the majority of the population.

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According to a report by the China Forum for Carbon Neutrality, a research organization bringing together several academic and governmental institutions, until August 2022, 16 provinces and cities have launched experiments of this type, in partnership with the digital sector. Each of these applications has several million users, according to Wu Hongjie, vice president of China’s Industrial Development Research Institute and author of the report. The Ant Forest application, an initiative for which the e-commerce platform Alibaba pledges to plant trees based on the reduction in emissions of active participants, is, according to its designers, used by 650 million people. In six years, it claims to have planted more than 400 million trees in eleven Chinese provinces.

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