Personal Carbon Trading

Catherine Bottrill
Bottrill – scheme is credible

An influential committee of British parliamentarians has called on the UK Government to push ahead with a “radical” system of personal ‘carbon credits’ .

Anyone who wanted to spend more than their limit would then be able to buy extra credits from low carbon emitters. Off-gridders would be amongst the lowest carbon users.

The scheme would see everybody given an annual carbon limit from an overall national pot, which they then ‘spent’ on items such as fuel and energy bills.

The government has dismissed the scheme as unworkable, but many believe otherwise.


The parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee admitted there are many details yet to be ironed out, especially the complexities of administration. They said a system of personal carbon trading “could be essential in helping to reduce our national carbon footprint”. It would be more fairer and more effective than green taxes at driving down emissions and would also promote behavioural change, the MPs said. “It means poorer households might get a cash reward for making green choices.”

Catherine Bottrill of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, has almost completed her work into the practicalities of setting up a scheme. She believes a Carbon trading scheme is perfectly possible. Her research covered:

o the appropriate emissions boundaries
o the equity issues of the scheme to different groups of people
o an accurate tool for calculating personal carbon

The policy was first introduced into government by David Milliband, who looks set to become the next Labor leader as Prime Minster Gordon Brown is increasingly isolated and unpopular.

The committee admitted that there was likely to be strong public opposition to the idea but urged the Government to be “courageous”, saying the need to reduce emissions was “simply too urgent”.

It added: “Persuading the public depends on perceptions of the Government’s own commitment to reducing emissions, and of the priority given to climate change in it’s own decision making.”

In a report entitled Personal Carbon Trading, the committee criticised the Government for it’s decision to abandon the idea following a pre-feasibility study.It concluded: “Personal carbon trading could be essential in helping to reduce our national carbon footprint.

“Further work is needed before personal carbon trading can be a viable policy option and this must be started urgently, and in earnest.

“In the meantime there is no barrier to the Government developing and deploying the policies that will not only prepare the ground for personal carbon trading, but will ensure its effectiveness and acceptance once implemented.”

The group of 16 MPs heard evidence from a range of experts last July.

It said that if the Government wanted to “stand the slightest chance of meeting its 2050 carbon emissions target” it could not afford to ignore the domestic and personal sector.

It argued that while there would be severe complexities in establishing the carbon credits system, the vast majority of these were not insurmountable.

Conservative Tim Yeo, who chairs the committee, said: “We found that personal carbon trading has real potential to engage the population in the fight against climate change and to achieve significant emissions reductions in a progressive way.

“The idea is a radical one. As such it inevitably faces some significant challenges in its development. It is important to meet these challenges.

“What we are asking the Government to do is to seize the reins on this, leading the debate and co-ordinating research.

“The potential of personal carbon trading demands that we continue to pursue its development as a viable policy option.”

The Government’s Environment Secretary Hilary Benn came on Radio in the UK to list a dozen tiny reasons why it was not practical. His interview showed they would prefer to do nothing (other than building new roads and power stations and airports).

Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock said: “It is wrong to say that the Government has abandoned its work on personal carbon trading.

“We have simply decided not to undertake further work, paid for by the taxpayer when a number of other studies are under way.”

The main problem is ensuring the carbon credit scheme did not become a national identity card by another means.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the global off-grid community

Register for a better experiencE on this site!