The personal carbon allowance is back.
Lord Smith of Finsbury believes that implementing individual carbon allowances for every person will be the most effective way of meeting the targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity.
As usual it\’s missing the most important point about carbon reductions. We want to cut emissions at the lowest cost possible. Whatever the level of emissions we decide is desired, we still want to do it as cheaply as possible.
Whether we use cap and trade (as here) or carbon taxation that is still true: low cost solutions please!
So, which is cheaper? Monitoring a few hundred firms selling petorl, a handful of airlines and what, 6 or 7 suppliers of the \’leccy?
Or trying to monitor and then trade in hte personal allowances of 65 million people? Each with an individual card, with card readers needed everywhere (for of course if you just have to shout out your number then who is to say that it is yours and you\’re not just using up someone else\’s allowance?) and the inevitable attempts to game the system?
Yes, well quite.
In fact, we can go further. According to Stern the damages done by total CO2-e emissions from this country are of the order of £14 billion or so (500 million tonnes at a shade under £30 a tonne….which, for boring technical reasons does roughly equate with the $80 in the Stern Review). I\’d be surprised if we could set up such a card system with personal rations for less than £200 a head pa.
Especially when you consider further: if we\’re only going to be measuring those three simple things then of course it would be cheaper: but it\’s even cheaper to measure those simple things at the wholesale level rather than individual. If we\’re going to try and measure total emissions, then we\’ve got to calculate the embeded emissions in everything: meat, milk, butter….and yes, we\’ve got to include home production of such things as well. Having a shit produces emissions….if we\’re to measure everything then we have to measure this.
The solution will, I would submit, be more expensive than the problem which is a very bad way indeed of trying to deal with things.
Another way of thinking of it. If it takes only 35 hours a year for an individual to deal with this requirement then already, leaving aside the costs of the infrastructure, the capital, the systems, the people paid to run it, then it is more expensive than the problem it is trying to solve.