MPs blast government reluctance on personal carbon trading

A committee of MPs has condemned the government’s lack of enthusiasm for personal carbon trading as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says carbon trading by households and individuals – similar to the trading done by firms under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme – is likely to be a better option than carbon taxes. However the government recently cut its research into and promotion of personal carbon trading as a regulatory tool (ENDS Report 400, p 17).

Personal trading could be more effective in driving down emissions and be more acceptable to the public, with many low emitting individuals gaining a financial benefit, said committee chairman Tim Yeo: “The potential of personal carbon trading demands that we continue to pursue its development.”

In its report, the committee acknowledges that such a scheme faces major obstacles and could not be introduced for some years. Administration costs and public resistance would both be high, and there are real concerns about some vulnerable groups losing out.

But MPs say that opposition to personal carbon trading could be reduced if people were persuaded:

  • that the need for reductions in carbon emissions is urgent
  • that people should take responsibility for reducing their own emissions, which account for 45% of the UK total; and
  • that personal carbon trading is a fairer, more effective way of reducing personal emissions than alternatives such as higher taxation

People will have to be persuaded on the first point if they are ever to be convinced of the case for personal carbon trading. “[It] might be the kind of radical measure needed to bring about behavioural change,” the MPs conclude.

Instead of ceasing research, the government needs to press on with the further work needed to make personal carbon trading viable, “leading and shaping debate and coordinating research.”