Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Personal Carbon Allowances

Diagram: Aubrey Meyer, Director of The Global Commons Institute.

The UK is looking to reduce its overall carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. This will be difficult to achieve without a highly organised and coordinated approach to carbon reduction within all areas of society, involving all UK citizens. A system that is beginning to gain credence within political and academic circles is something called Personal Carbon Allowance (PCA). Basically all citizens will be allocated an annual carbon allowance to which all carbon based purchased will be deducted from throughout the year. Each time you pay for petrol for example, the carbon will be deducted using your PCA card. The same with your gas and electricity bills, and even no doubt a bag of coal for the BBQ.

Slowly but surely your allowance would be reduced until the desired carbon reduction is achieved overall for the UK. The PCA would operate as part of a carbon trading market so those who don't use all their allocation (e.g. no use of a car) can sell them to people who use more than their PCA limit (e.g. large house & 3 cars) . At the moment energy intensive businesses (e.g. power companies) are part of a similar carbon trading market and eventually no doubt all businesses will be a part of this, as will government and councils.

This appears at least, to be a smart idea designed to tackle the complex problem that is climate change. Obviously the UK would be looking towards other countries to take on a similar system. For more on this please go to the ECI's site.

If you think this is a good idea you can sign a petition on the website for 10 Downing Street to show your support for the scheme.


At 4:41 pm, Anonymous Kitchen Witch said...

Hi there, and thanks for dropping by chez moi.

The thing about this carbon reduction target is that I think the government is coming at it from the wrong end. Just forcing people to change will only get you so far; significantly more progress could be made if people could be made to see things differently. For that to happen, it will take more than a carbon account, so to speak; after all, currently, more people would use public transport if the service provided was better. As it stands, a very small percentage of the population does, because the service sucks.

I agree that it's a good idea in principle, but I still think we need to tackle the fact that lots and lots and (depressingly) lots of people still don't even acknowledge the fact that we have a problem here!

At 10:46 am, Blogger Earthpal said...

Hi Matt.

The carbon-trading idea worries me a bit. It sounds like a logical idea but won't it make it easier for the richer individuals/corporations/governments to shirk their emission reductions and their obligations to change their lifestyles because they can simply buy polluting rights from the poorer?

Maybe I need to know more about how it will work.

I said this about it on my blog:

At 11:44 am, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Hi kitchen witch,

I agree that infrastructure such as public transport needs to improve as does its ticket pricing. Why oh why the UK has fallen behind the rest of Europe on delivering highspeed train lines, god only knows. I suspect privatisation is the problem as the French and German govts used some general taxes for funding their projects.

Regards educating the wider public about carbon footprints; they would soon learn more once the PCA scheme came in!

At 11:53 am, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Hi earthpal,

The smart aspect of the PCA scheme is that the level of carbon allowance for the UK as a whole gets reduced year on year. This leaves less and less excess for the richer citizens to buy to fund their excessive 'habits'.

At the same time the rich are not immune to making savings or indeed the lure of celebrity endorsed eco-products/services. It's amazing how sales of the Prius shot up once Brad got his paws on a couple (even if he probably recieved them for free!).

At 9:16 am, Blogger Earthpal said...

Yes, fair comment about the rich being lured into celebrity-endorsed products.

I hear what KW says, learning and then practising a new attitude towards our lifestyles would be much more successful. That said, I don't feel that we have the time to wait for people to "get with the programme". Vouluntary participation is unreliable and so we need, regrettably, legislation.

I can absoultely go with the Carbon Allowance Scheme and I agree about the carbon allowance levels being reduced over time (thanks for the info) because the gradual reductions will give us time to customise our lifestyles accordingly. But...

I still can't go with the carbon-trading policy. Sorry. I just can't help feeling that it will be open to exploitation by corporate giants and rich governments. It's like we're privatising emissions. But, more importantly, allowing the worst polluters to buy credits from elsewhere will, in my view, reduce the incentive to research alternatives and will make us lazy about actually changing our lifestyles...that's not just individually, but at corporate and governmental levels.

At 10:38 am, Blogger Matt Burge said...

No there isn't time and anyway, most people wouldn't be bothered to change me thinks! I share your concerns regards the trading system but, if you look at the petition on the 10 Downing St. website (link on my blog posting) the petitioner explains the reasoning; to avoid black markets and to allow room for adjustments to lifestyles. I think this is the most realistic approach I've seen. We can't subsidize all the changes we need (e.g. grants for solar panels) because it's expensive, is only taken up by the middle class and slow to effect change.

At 10:35 pm, Blogger Keith Scott said...

Thanks for pointing me to the petition. It does seem to me that personal carbon allowances are one of the best ways to go while also legislating for a year by year reduction in national carbon emissions. It has to be brought down to each individual how their lifestyle is making a difference and I can't think of a better way of doing it and encouraging change.

At 10:56 am, Blogger Pete Smith said...

I'm firmly in favour of the Personal Carbon Account, and I've signed up to the petition, for what it's worth, I doubt if it'll affect anything but it's worth a try. I also agree with several contributors in not caring for the idea of PCA trading. Use it or lose it!

At 10:50 pm, Blogger Urban Commuter said...

Hello everybody,

I really like this Personal Carbon trading idea. Although I am struggling to envisage how it could be implemented across ALL products. Even so, even if it were to start by involving only headline carbon issues like air travel / forecourt fuel / home energy use / etc, then it would be a start.

On the point that big business would just buy permission to pollute using other peoples carbon allowences; this may be the case to begin with. But as annual tagets put a downward pressure on available carbon to trade, there will come a point economically, where the cost of buying other people's carbon allowences will become a financial burden affecting the bottom line. And after all, big business doesn't set out to pollute; it pollutes as a side effect of chasing bottom line profits.

At 6:54 am, Blogger Matt Burge said...

UC, I couldn't have put it better myself. Hope you've signed the petition at 10 Downing St. It's all via the web so no transport pollution involved!

NB.The big business polluters such as energy companies are already a part of the EU Carbon Trading system. Look at;


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