Is personal cap-and-trade the answer?
Published 07th October 2009 - 6 comments - 923 views -
In May of this year the Environmental Audit Committee recommended that the government introduce a personal carbon trading scheme in Britain. As with cap-and-trade at the national level individuals would be provided with a personal carbon quota, and each time they bought goods, petrol or the like they would have to pay an allowance. Like the industry equivalent, if a person ran short of credit they would have the option of purchasing more from someone who hadn't used their quota. The idea being that a personal ration of carbon would force individuals to be actively conscious of their CO2 expenditure, and thus limit their usage. The fact that individuals could make money from selling on unused credits would also add a financial incentive to curbing usage.
At present however, the government is balking at the idea. This is largely because it would cost billions of pounds to implement (and we're in a financial crisis dontyaknow) but also because it lacks widespread support among the population. Nevertheless, the groundwork is being laid and there are suggestions that a scheme could be in place by 2020.
As someone trying to get a handle on my carbon footprint I would welcome such an initiative. It would help me understand where I'm unnecessarily burning credit (grapes flown in from Greece perhaps) and allow me to make informed decisions about what I do use it for. That said, I'm not sure I'm representative of the general population. How eagerly will the majority of people welcome enforced limits on the goods they can buy and the travel they can do? What government would be brave enough to introduce such a politically volatile scheme? And would such a scheme simply see the less well-off funding the carbon extravagances of the rich?
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