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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

E mail to David Drew MP on Carbon Rationing

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Dear David,

I watched the adjournment debate on climate change with interest last night. May I congratulate you on the question you raised during Martin Horwood's speech on the introduction of individual carbon rationing. Martin's speech gave an excellent synopsis as to why we need to be making cuts of the order of 90% in our carbon emissions to have any reasonable chance of saving the planet and thus your question was highly pertinent.

Unfortunately you never got much of an answer and this is probably because it has not been given much thought by other parties. I have to say that I had always been sceptical of the concept as well. However, given further consideration, I believe that your idea has very strong merits.

Firstly, from a technological point of view its introduction should be relatively easy. A ration card could be handled in exactly the same was that a Tesco points card is used. The only difference is that it would be illegal for a company to buy and sell selected products, such as petrol or air travel to somebody without the card, and you could only buy the products if your carbon ration had not been exceeded.

There is also the opportunity of incorporating the ration cards with the proposed personal identification cards that the government is planning to introduce.

Secondly, the benefit of the personal rationing system that you outlined is that it would penalise those people who have excessive carbon emissions, either through things such as driving large cars excessive distances or frequent flyers. The rationing system would force cuts before biting into the living standards of those who do not cause significant emissions. This is likely to result in a quick and significant carbon emissions drop because the distribution of carbon emissions is heavily skewed. This skew in the data is because nobody emits less than zero emissions, but a small number of people will produce emissions very much larger than the average. These extreme consumers of carbon have the effect of distorting and inflating the overall average. Also despite the publicity, many of these extreme consumers are not yet changing their lifestyles and are still showing little incentive to do so. Therefore these few people can negate the benefit of many others who try to cut back.

Thirdly, the personal rationing can be extended to products and services that are provided from oversees suppliers. This prevents energy intensive manufacturing processes from simply being relocated into countries that are not part of a currently proposed carbon trading schemes, e.g car manufacturing is an energy intensive business and several manufactures are now looking at relocation to developing countries that are not bound by the Kyoto targets.

Fourthly, the government's draft climate change bill discusses at great length the idea of the climate change committee. If individual carbon rationing was introduced, then a prime role of the climate change committee would be to determine the amount carbon allocation for various products and services and oversee the phasing in of the rationing concept.

Fifth, carrots could be introduced into the system, such as subsidised public travel or grants for solar heating and insulation of houses on submission of the card.

On the down side, introduction of the concept may be politically difficult as this will cause carbon cuts, unlike the current Kyoto targets which do not really result in any signficant carbon cuts. However, this can be mitigated by incorporating incentives into the processes such as identified in point 5 above. Also a growing proportion of the country wants to see action being taken, and as the climate starts changing for the worse they will become more cynical of the delays that international agreements such as Kyoto are causing.

Regards,
Kevin Lister
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