MPs call for personal carbon allowance

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should consider giving individuals a personal carbon emissions allowance in order to help the country meet its CO2 emissions target, a report by a committee of MPs said on Monday.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn speaks during a news conference in Kobe, Japan, on May 26, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee said the government had to reduce carbon emissions from individuals and households, as well as businesses and industry, if it was to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050 as planned.

Introducing a personal carbon allowance -- whereby people would have to trade in credits if they wanted to exceed their own CO2 quota -- would be more effective and fairer than bringing in “green” taxes, the report by MPs said.

The government said that while the scheme had appeal, it would be too expensive and complicated.

“Existing initiatives are unlikely to bring about behavioural change on the scale required, with many individuals choosing to disregard the connection between their own emissions and the larger challenge,” the committee’s report said.

“Personal carbon trading might be the kind of radical measure needed to bring about behavioural change.”

The idea for CO2 trading is taken from the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which forces big industrial emitters of the gas to clean up their act or buy permits from companies that have.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said a personal emissions system was an “interesting idea” and one that the government had already researched.

“It’s got potential, but in essence it’s ahead of its time, the cost of implementing it would be quite high, and there are a lot of practical problems to overcome,” he told BBC radio.

“It’s not as if the government isn’t taking lots of other action to get our emissions down.”

He said the cost of introducing personal carbon trading would be between 700 million pounds and 2 billion pounds.

However, Tim Yeo, the committee chairman, said difficulties of implementing the scheme could be overcome and called for more feasibility work to be done.

“It engages people at all levels in their decisions, about whether they heat their house to a slightly lower temperature, whether they really need to put air conditioning in their flat, whether they really need to take that flight,” he said.

“It does so more directly than any other system,” he told BBC radio.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Matthew Jones