In a 2006 speech, then Environment Secretary David Miliband said there was potential to create a system where individuals carried bank cards that stored carbon points which would be deducted when buying energy and could be traded with neighbours.

However, Defra has now announced it is suspending its own research on personal carbon trading.

The department said it will continue to monitor other research into the subject and “may introduce personal carbon trading if the value of carbon savings and cost implications change”.

Researchers estimated the set-up costs of the scheme could range from £700m to £2bn, and running costs could reach a further £2bn a year.

Many members of the public questioned for the study opposed the idea, raising concerns about the possible inconvenience and complexity of personal carbon trading, and questioning the impact it would have.

The report said: “While personal carbon trading remains a potentially important way to engage individuals, and there are no insurmountable technical obstacles to its introduction, it would nonetheless seem that it is an idea currently ahead of its time in terms of its public acceptability and the technology to bring down the costs.”

Speaking at the Think 08 conference in London on the same day the research was published, current Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said the UK public was not ready for such a scheme.

He added: “It’s a really interesting idea but I think we have got a big enough test on our hands to do these things we have already set out.”

The idea of a personal carbon trading scheme hit the headlines in July 2006 following a speech by Mr Miliband at the Audit Commission’s annual lecture.

The results of Defra’s research can be found here.

Kate Martin

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