Wednesday, December 13, 2006

UK mulls consumer carbon credit card

The UK government has released a feasibility study on a consumer emissions trading scheme that would see every British citizen issued with a carbon credit card, The Guardian newspaper reports.

Under the scheme, everyone in the country would be given a quota of carbon emissions for the food they buy and the energy they use for transport and heating. In this way household and individuals’ contribution to climate-change-producing carbon emissions could be monitored and kept in check.

The study was commissioned by the environment secretary, David Miliband, who said the scheme could be up and running within five years.

Anyone who exceeded their quota would have to buy carbon credits to cover the excess from someone who had not used up their quota and had a surplus to sell. This would encourage “carbon thrift”, Miliband told The Guardian.

For consumers, the system would work in a similar way to their popular supermarket loyalty cards, which shoppers hand over to be swiped for points every time they shop at one of provider’s outlets.

The study, carried out by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, argues that the success of the Tesco loyalty card shows a carbon card is viable.

Miliband conceded the cost of running a card, fraud risks and “big brother” ID card hurdles would have to be overcome. How consumers would react to such a limitation on their consumption habits has also not yet been tested.

But the political fallout for a government introducing such a scheme may not be as great in Britain as it might be in other countries. Both the Conservative and Labor sides of politics are competing to be the one seen as doing most on climate change.

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