Personal carbon trading
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Personal carbon trading is the generic term for a number of proposed emissions trading schemes under which emissions credits would be allocated to adult individuals on a (broadly) equal per capita basis, within national carbon budgets. Individuals then surrender these credits when buying fuel or electricity. Individuals wanting or needing to emit at a level above that permitted by their initial allocation would be able to purchase additional credits from those using less, creating a profit for those individuals who emit at a level below that permitted by their initial allocation.
Current proposals include:
- Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) - devised by environmental writer, David Fleming, who first published the idea in 1996 under its former name Domestic Tradable Quotas (DTQs). The UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has been researching this scheme since 2003, and more recently the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) through its CarbonLimited project. The scheme was the subject of a UK government pre-feasibility study in 2008, and an All Party Parliamentary Group report in 2011.
- Personal Carbon Allowances (PCAs) - described in the book “How we can save the planet” by Mayer Hillman and Tina Fawcett. Work on PCAs is ongoing at the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford, UK. The title "PCAs" or "PCA scheme" is sometimes used generically to refer to any proposed form of personal carbon trading.
- Tradable Personal Pollution Allowances - originally proposed in an article by Dr. Kirk Barrett in 1995 and applicable to any form of pollution, including carbon dioxide.
- End-user Emissions Trading - preliminary proposal in an article by Suryapratim Roy and Edwin Woerdman which analyses some of the legal and policy nuances of an emissions trading scheme for individuals, for instance on an EU-wide scale.
Individuals would most likely hold their emissions credits in electronic accounts, and would surrender them when they make carbon-related purchases, such as electricity, heating fuel and petroleum. PCAs could also require individuals to use credits for public transport. Tradable Energy Quotas would bring all other sectors of society (e.g. Industry, Government) within the scope of a single scheme.
Individuals who exceed their allocation (i.e. those who want to use more emissions credits than they have been given) would be able to purchase additional credits from those who use less, so individuals that are under allocation would profit from their small carbon footprint. There are two types of carbon credits, Certified Emission Reduction credits EUAs and CERs and Verified Carbon Credits. 
Proponents of personal carbon trading claim that it is an equitable way of addressing climate change and peak oil, as it could guarantee that a national economy lives within its agreed carbon budget and ensure fair access to fuel and energy. They also believe it would increase ‘carbon literacy’ among the public, while encouraging more localised economies.
Personal carbon trading has been criticised for its possible complexity and high implementation costs. As yet, there is minimal reliable data on these issues. There is also the fear that personal "rationing" and trading of allowances will be politically unacceptable, especially if those allowances are used to buy from industries who are already passing on costs from their participation in carbon levy or trading schemes such as the EU ETS.
Research in this area has shown that personal carbon trading would be a progressive policy instrument - redistributing money from the rich to the poor - as the rich use more energy than the poor, and so would need to buy allowances from them. This is in contrast to a direct carbon tax, under which all lower income people are worse off, prior to revenue redistribution.
Progress towards implementation
In May 2008 DEFRA completed a pre-feasibility study into TEQs, with the headline finding that “personal carbon trading has potential to engage individuals in taking action to combat climate change, but is essentially ahead of its time and expected costs for implementation are high”. Based on this DEFRA announced that “the (UK) Government remains interested in the concept of personal carbon trading and, although it will not be continuing its research programme at this stage, it will monitor the wealth of research focusing on this area and may introduce personal carbon trading if the value of carbon savings and cost implications change".
Later that same month the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee produced their report on the subject, which concluded that ”personal carbon trading could be essential in helping to reduce our national carbon footprint" and rebuked the Government for delaying a full feasibility study, stating that "although we commend the Government for its intention to maintain engagement in academic work on the topic, we urge it to undertake a stronger role, leading and shaping debate and coordinating research".
Analysts have noted that to implement any effective carbon rationing system, "the government must convince the public that rationing levels are fair, that the system is administered transparently and fairly, and that evaders are few in number, likely to be detected and liable to stiff penalties if found guilty."
A 2010 paper into attitudes towards personal carbon trading suggests a general ambivalence, however the researchers noted that "In fact, moderate support was the commonest view". A 4-week consumer trial on Personal Carbon Allowances carried out in London in June 2011 reported that "Participants engaged with the personal carbon allowance concept with enthusiasm".
In January 2011, the UK's All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil published a report into TEQs, garnering significant media coverage. This report highlights the significant research from a number of research centres produced since the Government's pre-feasibility study, and argues that these studies demonstrate the benefits of to be far greater than was acknowledged in the Government's research. Accordingly, it urges them to move quickly to fund moves towards potential implementation in the near future.
Related emissions reduction proposals and initiatives
- Carbon Rationing Action Groups - groups in the UK and US that voluntarily cap their greenhouse gas emissions
- "Icecaps" - devised by George Monbiot in his book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning.
- Carbon offset
- Carbon thumbprint
- Clean Air Conservancy
- Contraction and Convergence
- Emissions Reduction Currency System
- Emissions trading
- International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance
- Personal carbon credits
- "An introduction to personal carbon trading", Climate Policy journal, Volume 10, Number 4, Sept 2010 , pp. 329-338
- How would TEQs work?, on www.teqs.net
- Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
- RSA CarbonLimited Partners and Supporters
- UK Government pre-feasibility study into TEQs
- The reports from the UK government pre-feasibility study can be downloaded in full here
- All Party Parliamentary report into TEQs
- Environmental Change Institute (ECI) - Oxford University
- Personal Pollution Allowance Proposal:
- End-user Emissions Trading
- Types of Carbon Credits
- David Fleming (2007), Energy and the Common Purpose, 3rd edition
- Simon Dresner and Paul Ekins, Policy Studies Institute, The Distributional Impacts of Economic Instruments to Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transport
- Joshua Thumim and Vicki White, Centre for Sustainable Energy (2008). Distributional Impacts of Personal Carbon Trading: A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Defra, London
- Media release: Norfolk Island to trial world first Personal Carbon Trading program - 27/10/2010
- Norfolk Island Carbon/Health Evaluation (NICHE) website
- "What is the progress towards seeing TEQs implemented in the UK?", from TEQs website - accessed 23 Jan 2011
- DEFRA press release - 8th May 2008
- Environmental Audit Committee - Personal Carbon Trading: Fifth Report of Session 2007–08
- Roodhouse, Mark (March 2007). "Rationing returns: a solution to global warming?". History & Policy. United Kingdom: History & Policy. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- Public attitudes to personal carbon allowances: findings from a mixed-method study
- "Personal Carbon Allowances White Paper". United Kingdom: Carbon Trust Advisory and The Coca-Cola Company. April 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- Media coverage of All Party Parliamentary report into TEQs, from www.teqs.net, accessed 23 Jan 2011
- All Party Parliamentary report into TEQs
- Home | CRAGs
- Brendan Barrett, "Better than Star Wars: The Age of Stupid", September 25, 2009
- Release dates for The Age of Stupid - IMDb
- Carbon rationing and personal carbon allowances CarbonEquity is a climate change education and advocacy NGO.[dead link]
- On The Move: SDC Annual Review 2005 - proposal by the UK Sustainable Development Commission for the UK Government to undertake a full-scale pilot and risk assessment of introducing personal carbon trading for individuals and small businesses.
- Description of the RSA project on personal carbon trading - CarbonLimited[dead link]
- RSA CarbonLimited website[dead link]
- RSA CarbonLimited final report A persuasive climate: Personal trading and changing lifestyles (December 2008)
- RSA Journal article What we must do to save the planet (June 2006)
- RSA CarbonLimited report supporting implementation of a UK Personal Carbon Trading scheme from 2013 (Sept 2007)
- Paragraph 2.84 of UK government's Energy Review (11 July 2006) announces study looking at personal carbon trading and other approaches to mobilising individuals
- Government to consider personal carbon allowances - press release by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (19 July 2006)
- Speech by David Miliband (19 July 2006) to the Audit Commission in which he mentions personal carbon trading
- David Miliband's blog on personal carbon trading (19 July 2006) with over 80 comments from members of the public
- Commentary: Your Own Personal Carbon Credits - Berkeley Daily Planet (1 Sep 2006)
- UK Government-commissioned scoping study, by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (Nov 2006)
- Zero Carbon Britain Report outlining how Britain could become carbon neutral by 2027, built around a framework of TEQs nationally and Contraction and Convergence internationally - Centre for Alternative Technology (July 2007)
- The UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee's report into personal carbon trading (May 2008)
- Personal Carbon Credits Article outlining personal carbon credit trading from home energy reductions (July 2009)
- Personal Carbon Allowances White Paper developed by The Carbon Trust, The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Enterprises (April 2012)
TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas) - formerly known as Domestic Tradable Quotas
- David Fleming's website on Tradable Energy Quotas (including his free guide to TEQs, downloadable as a PDF)
- Information on Southern Cross University's TEQs trial on Norfolk Island, due to start in 2011
- The All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil's report into TEQs, downloadable as a PDF (January 2011)
- BBC Radio 4 - 12 minute discussion of peak oil and TEQs (Sept 2008)
- Official responses to the pre-feasibility study by i) David Fleming's Lean Economy Connection, ii) the Centre for Sustainable Energy and iii) House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee
- UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pre-feasibility study into TEQs (links to full reports broken, but they are available to be downloaded in full from the TEQs website here) (May 2008)
- David Boyle article looking back from 2021 to the introduction of TEQs in 2011 - All to gain on the carbon diet? (Feb 2006)
- Domestic Tradable Quotas: Fancy buying and selling your dirty habits? - Financial Times (9 Oct 2006)
- Tyndall Technical Report 39 - a detailed report on DTQs (December 2005)
- Tyndall Centre summary of DTQ research (2005)
- Domestic Tradable Quotas (Climate Change) Bill - a Private Members Bill submitted to the UK Parliament in 2004