A brief visit to the BP carbon footprint calculator gives our household a carbon footprint of about 7 (tonnes of CO2) compared to a national average of 9.85. We’re weak on energy saving improvements to the home but relatively strong when it comes car use. Those figures are without any foreign travel factored in. Add in three short haul flights a year to my putative second home and that footprint rises by about 0.5 of a tonne. Change that to an equally imaginary investment in Florida or the Caribbean and the total increases by 3.30 tonnes and that’s before you’ve done anything to air-condition your premises.
Despite all the talk, warnings about energy waste leading to environmental disaster are not going to make all the difference to people’s foreign travel habits, even though, second home ownership in Cyprus, for example, brings an average increase in one’s carbon footprint of 4.32 tonnes in its train. However, the likelihood that environmental awareness coupled to other factors such as security concerns, hassles with overseas property and increases in the expense of flying will bring about a change in sentiment is something that every property investor needs to be aware of.
There’s been a fair amount of press coverage of the environmental consequences of frequent air travel and some of it has been specifically in the context of second home owners. The point that travelling to your second home by boat and train will produce less carbon emissions than flying has been made often but the discussion of the effects of second home ownership needs to be more thorough-going than that. People’s lifestyle’s need to be viewed in the round so that, for example, someone who gave up 20,000 miles of business travel by car each year in order to work at home would reduce their carbon footprint by an amount greater than that produced by their home (5.6 tonnes of CO2).
Maybe the real message we should be heeding from the efforts to persuade us to reduce our carbon footprint is that finding out where we’ll be content and putting ourselves there (circumstances permitting) is the best way to reduce our carbon emissions. This may mean even more people moving abroad permanently or it could just mean thinking twice before we travel somewhere only to start adjusting our personal environment with the aid of the heating/air-conditioning control.
According to HiFX, the foreign currency specialist, the carbon cost of an overseas second home averages 2.79 tonnes of CO2 per occupant but can be much higher in specific countries (South African properties will have an average carbon footprint of 4.24 tonnes).
The savvy investor will be increasingly aware of the benefits of foreign homes that can be built with a low expenditure of carbon emissions and that are carbon neutral to run.
Warnings about global warming are now sufficiently frequent and listened to for it to be wise for everyone to look at the signs of the times. Overseas property investors need to take a view on whether the locale of their choice is going to continue to be a pleasant summer destination. This year’s fires in mainland Greece have drawn attention to that kind of risk but Greece is by no means the only place that is vulnerable. A wet summer in the British Isles has done the UK holiday trade no good at all but longer term climate change could bring renewed interest in Britain and Ireland as a holiday destination.