Individuals must take responsibility for environment too

Individuals should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own environmental impact through a system of domestic tradable quotas in order for truly effective emissions reduction measures to take place.

This was the view of Colin Challen MP, as he addressed the NEMEX Conference in Birmingham this week.

Challen, sponsor of the Domestic Tradable Quotas Bill 2004, and member of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, said the government was unlikely to meet its target of a 60% cut in emissions by 2050, and that DTQs could provide a way towards this as well as being a powerful market driver for new products through increasing consumer awareness.

Under the proposed system, everyone would be given a domestic quota of carbon emissions – or entitlements to pollute. These would then be used up during all consumer choices, encouraging individuals to use products with a low environmental impact.

For example, those choosing cheap air travel with all of its related unsustainable emissions, would be penalised heavily, as would 4×4 drivers, and lose much of their quota, while cyclists and walkers would be rewarded.

Those exceeding their quota would then have to buy further credits from those choosing more sustainable options. The system would not only apply to transport but across all consumer goods, from food to fridges, all of which would have to be labeled with performance criteria.

Most of the time, he said, the electorate are simply unaware of their own environmental impact and the fact they could make more sustainable choices.

“I think this is the best way to engage the electorate in true environmental politics,” Mr Challen said. “A perfect third-way approach. Climate change affects all of our activities and we have an affect through all of our actions. This would make you realize what those impacts and choices are.”

He pointed out that carbon trading and emissions trading were already working economic realities, so there was no reason that this shouldn’t work too.

“We could easily piggy-back the legislation onto the ID cards bill,” he said. “It is something I will certainly be pushing for through this next session of parliament.”

The Treasury are currently looking at the feasibility of such a system, although any final quotas would likely be on a much lighter scale than the one proposed by Mr Challen.

“I don’t think the Government are facing up to this at all. We keep thinking that the effects will not be felt for a long time, but we know they will be felt by our children’s children at least. The cost of inaction over this is far greater than the cost of implementation,” he concluded. “Even if I am barking, at least I’m not barking up the wrong tree.”

By David Hopkins

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