UK climate targets impossible without individual carbon budg

Royal Society reports warns personal carbon allowances will be needed to meet emission targets

Targets set out in the climate change bill will not be met without the introduction of personal carbon allowances, according to a new report for the The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

The study warns that with carbon emissions from individuals rising and representing some 44 per cent of the UK's emissions - chiefly from transport - policies that avoid addressing this slice of emissions will not deliver big enough reductions to meet the government's overarching target of an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050.

"There is a clear need to encourage people to change their individual and collective behaviour," said Matt Prescott, author of the report entitled A Persuasive Climate. "This has become a priority area for public policy - to do this, it is important to understand what motivates change and ensure that the tools exist to enable it."

A recent Ipsos-Mori survey presented to the RSA found that 74 per cent of people felt that "we are heading for environmental disaster if we don't quickly change our habits", yet 59 per cent said "they are doing nothing about it" - indicating that people may need a nudge before they act on carbon.

The report says a personal carbon trading scheme would offer a combination of "hard" measures - compulsory participation in carbon footprint management and a cost for those exceeding a specified target level - with "soft ones", such as the freedom to make personal behavioural choices in an effort to reach that level and generate income by selling any unused carbon credits.

The government had previously indicated that it could consider introducing personal carbon trading schemes, but ditched the plans last year after a report for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs concluded it would prove both costly and unpopular.

However, the RSA's research found that if personal carbon trading were introduced locally and on an opt-in basis it could generate popular support and help to curb emissions.

It undertook a trial scheme alongside consultancy Atos Origin involving 140 individuals and found that managing personal allowances could prove cheaper than the government's estimates. It also found that cuts in personal carbon emissions of around five per cent were delivered relatively quickly as a result of the scheme.

It added that the revenue raised through such a scheme would have to be used to finance local renewables projects, so that people could see the fruits of their savings. Later, a wider cap-and-trade system could be introduced in which local authorities or local energy companies trade personal carbon reductions on the behalf of individuals, recycling the revenue into schemes which provide energy locally.

"The introduction of personal carbon trading needn't be financially or technically prohibitive," the report concludes.

But further research commissioned by the RSA from the consultancy E3 showed that a strong and stable carbon price is vital for such a scheme to succeed.

"Uncertainty over the carbon price in a personal carbon trading scheme would need to be controlled to avoid the cost of the scheme exceeding the benefits of its resultant behaviour change," the report warns.

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