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Cap and Share selected as a top Breakthrough Idea by UK Commission

Cap and Share, the smart way to manage the transition to a low carbon economy developed by Feasta and Supported by Smart Taxes was voted one of the 19 best ideas to solve climate change by the UK Sustainable Development Commisison.

Here’s a short explanation of the scheme:- Each year you get a certificate for your share of the country’s CO2 emissions. It might be for 10 tonnes of CO2, say. It’s free, and every adult in the country gets the same.

The fossil fuel suppliers (oil, coal and gas companies) have to buy these certificates (you’d sell them via banks or post offices) and they become the permits. If a fossil fuel company buys your certificate, this allows them to bring in as much fossil fuel as will emit 10 tonnes of CO2 when it’s burnt (somewhere down the line). The more certificates they buy, the more fossil fuels they can bring in. Certificates are in demand, and are worth serious money.

To pay for the certificates, fossil fuel suppliers put up the price of petrol, heating oil, coal and gas. Petrol (and the other fossil fuels) would cost more, and the cost of capping carbon is built in to the price of all goods and services automatically (so carbon-intensive goods cost more, encouraging the use of low-carbon alternatives). There’s no need for carbon-trading schemes (let alone rationing) – the cap’s taken care of “upstream”. You can get on with the rest of your life.

Some prices go up, but you’re compensated by the income from selling your certificates. If you have a lower than average carbon footprint, you’ll come out ahead.

Surely its time for the Irish government to get over its inferiority complex about proposing this brilliant Anglo Irish concept at Copenhagen.?

“The Sustainable Development Commission will today (1 July 2009) unveil 19 Breakthrough ideas which could transform the UK into a sustainable society, at an event attended by HRH the Prince of Wales.

The SDC’s Breakthroughs for the 21st Century project sets out to identify the ideas which could make the biggest impact on Britain’s efforts to tackle climate change, resource depletion and inequality. Almost 300 ideas were submitted by the public, businesses, academics, and sustainability professionals of which 19 were selected by SDC Commissioners as potential Breakthroughs.”  Link to article

From the Commissions Report:

Transforming the way we manage carbon

We need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases globally by at least 80% by 2050. And the developed countries need to make cuts of at least 30% by 2020. An unprecedented scientific consensus has got us this far. But the politics of tackling climate change still lags far behind the science. The frameworks at the heart of carbon management at a global level, such as Kyoto and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), have struggled to make much of an impact on emissions not because they were flawed ideas, but because they were undermined by fundamental political tensions between the US, EU and developing countries.  With Copenhagen approaching, and both the Obama administration and China gearing up, a new international settlement on climate change looks possible for 2010. It is therefore a good time to look again at ways of capping and allocating carbon emissions.

What’s the single most important thing we can do to correct that science-into-policy deficit? Lord Stern was clear on this: ‘get a realistic price on a tonne of CO.2 just as fast as possible.’ That won’t be enough on its own, but it’s the baseline without which everything else is at risk.  So how near are we to getting a ‘realistic price’? Substantial volumes of carbon are traded though the EU  ETS and under the Kyoto Protocol’s flexibility mechanisms. President Obama is vigorously pushing a similar Cap-and- Trade scheme in the US, and other countries are starting to get to grips with what this all means. But ETS permits to emit CO 2 are trading at around €10 a tonne these days. That’s woefully inadequate. US scientist Jim Hansen reckons it will take $250 a tonne to get emissions down by 80%. At present rates of progress, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be through the 450ppm barrier (the upper limit if we are to have a decent chance of staying  below the all-important 2°C average temperature increase)  before we get anywhere near Stern’s ‘realistic price’.

This kind of realism (not pessimism!) is persuading more and more people that we’ve got to come up with something  much faster, smarter and fairer than the current Kyoto  regime. And some of the brightest thinking on how to tackle  that challenge is going on right here in the UK.

( and Ireland ! Emer )

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