Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

UK planning swipe card to ration carbon consumption

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A radical plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions by rationing the carbon use of individuals is being drawn up by British government officials. The scheme could force consumers to carry a swipe card that records their personal carbon allocation, with points knocked off each time they buy gas or tickets for a flight.

Under the scheme, all UK citizens from the Queen down would be allocated an identical annual carbon allowance, stored as points on an electronic card similar to air miles schemes or supermarket loyalty cards. Points would be deducted at point of sale for every purchase of non-renewable energy. People who did not use their full allocation, such as families who do not own a car, would be able to sell their surplus carbon points into a central bank.

High energy users could then buy them -- motorists who had used their allocation would still be able to buy gas, with the carbon points drawn from the bank and the cost added to their fuel bills. To reduce total UK emissions, the overall number of points would shrink each year.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs David Miliband is keen to set up a pilot scheme to test the idea, and has asked officials from four government departments to report on how it could be done.

The move marks the first serious step towards state-enforced limits on the carbon use of individuals, which scientists say may be necessary in the fight against climate change.

It extends the principle of carbon trading -- already in place between heavy polluters such as power companies and steel makers -- to consumers.

The principle was included in the government's review of energy policies, which said a new cross-departmental group "will examine what new policy options, such as tradeable personal carbon allowances, could be deployed to stimulate local action."

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