Personal Carbon Trading: a critical examination of proposals for the UK

To effectively mitigate climate change in the long-term, capping carbon dioxide emissions at the individual level has been proposed. Known as personal carbon allowances, these would be decreased year-on-year. Trading in personal carbon allowances would be encouraged, as a means to effectively and equitably reduce emissions overall. This conceptual paper aims to critically examine personal carbon trading (PCT) by questioning the assumptions underlying this proposal and identifying the gaps in current thinking.

The paper first discusses the origins and development of the PCT ideas, identifies key players and proponents of the proposals, and examines their economic bases. Lessons from several related areas of experience (the EU Emissions Trading System, voluntary Carbon Rationing Action Groups, and Complementary Currencies) are used to examine likely success factors and inform future policy and implementation of PCT.

A set of four critical issues are identified, which straddle political, social, economic, environmental, cultural and ethical domains, and which demand greater attention before the PCT idea can be progressed.

Seyfang, G., Lorenzoni. I, and M. Nye