Monday, July 18, 2005

Personal carbon quotas - a positive idea

Only those with their heads in the sand doubt that global warming is creating climate destruction around the world. Even President Bush, no friend of the environment, signed onto the G8 communique that "acknowledged that human activity contributed in large part to global warming, and said there was a need to reduce greenhouse gases."

As a nation and a world we need to reduce our carbon emissions. Why not allow the free market to help us make the adjustment to lower greenhouse gases? Some policy makers in the UK have floated the idea of using a personal carbon quota for each adult in the United Kingdom and if you combine that with the successful sulphur emissions trading you've got a solid system to get every American involved in reducing greenhouse gases.

This tradeable personal carbon quota system would give each person the same right to pollute as their fellow citizen. It would allow those that make moves to reduce greenhouse gas to make money and provide an incentive for all to decrease their use of greenhouse gases. This is only a thumbnail sketch of how the program would work and there are some problems that need to be worked out, but overall the form would be the same.

Each citizen would get X credits at the beginning of each year on a debit card-type system tied into driver's license or SSN. Each time the citizen directly purchased fuel that releases greenhouse gases, an appropriate amount would be subtracted from their total. So when you purchased gasoline, heating oil, propane, public transit tickets or airplane tickets you would have some credits subtracted related to how much in greenhouse gases you are creating. Should you need more, you'd need to purchase the credits on the open market from someone willing to sell. If there are more buyers than sellers the price goes up. If there are more sellers than buyers, the price goes down. This would encourage people to carpool, insulate their house, switch their utilities to renewable resources, take the train rather than fly, etc.

Besides the market forces driving down consumption and incentivizing saving, the government could move to reduce the amount of credits annually (like X minus .2%) so that people have to further decrease their consumption or move to more efficient technology.

I recognize their are some problems implementing the system, but if the will was there, these could be overcome. Thoughts? Would you support a tradeable personal carbon quota system to help save the world from climate destruction?