Our Agenda for Change: using Carbon Allowances for reducing emissions

Why is action needed?

We can already see the damaging impact of climate change on the environment, and as these changes increase they are leading to social impacts as whole populations struggle to survive or become displaced.

To avoid it getting out of control, in 2015 the Paris Climate Agreement set a target to hold the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C (or 3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, and ideally 1.5°C (2.7°F).

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What is the global carbon budget?

Climate change is a cumulative problem: the total carbon dioxide emitted over time matters, not just the emissions in any given year. At the same time, the relationship between rising carbon dioxide levels and rising temperatures is near-linear, which means climatologists can calculate the impact of CO2 emissions on our climate.

Climatologists have calculated that globally we can emit no more than 420 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) from now on – effectively a ‘carbon budget’ – beyond which the impact of emissions will be catastrophic. We are currently on target to hit this level in 2028.

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How can we stay within the global carbon budget?

We must reduce global carbon dioxide emissions to stop rising global temperatures. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement promises to restrict overall emissions of greenhouse gases which cause this rise. Signatory nations must make ambitious pledges to play their part, and then keep to them.

The United Nations also originally proposed a framework for reducing CO2 emissions in a fair, logical way, more suited to the urgency and dangers we face.  Called ‘contraction and convergence’, the strategy consists of reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases to a safe level (contraction), by each country bringing its emissions per capita to the same level (convergence). 

Recognising the different levels of carbon currently generated by different countries and the different impacts on their economies of reducing it, developed countries – who account for the greatest emissions – start reduction immediately.  Less developed countries are allowed to reduce their emissions more slowly.  At an agreed date, all countries are then bound to reduce their CO2 emissions to zero.

We believe the mounting urgency and dangers of the climate crisis will now compel nations to switch from their current vague ‘nationally determined contributions’ to this original system where the arithmetic makes sense. The nations that consider themselves climate leaders should be pushing the global community to adopt Contraction and Convergence at the UN, to give every nation their fair share of the responsibility.

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How can we create a fair system for reducing CO2 emissions?

EcoCore advocates the adoption of carbon allowances as the best system to meet the requirements above and support us to reduce global CO2 emissions.

In this system:

  • Each nation takes their allocation from the global carbon budget and divides it equally between its citizens.
  • The government then allocates each citizen their fair share of the national carbon budget – a carbon allowance of carbon tokens – into their personal carbon account.
  • Whenever an individual buys goods or services, in addition to the financial cost, businesses charge them the carbon price in tokens as well as the cash price. The business then uses these tokens to pay for carbon price of their own purchases from the vendors in their supply chain. This continues down the supply chain until the end is reached at the carbon providers (oil/gas/coal extraction companies).
  • Anyone can sell the carbon tokens they don’t need on the centrally regulated carbon market to those people and businesses that need to buy more.

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What difference can I make?

It’s true that governments should be stepping up and leading, but they are not. The main take-home from last climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, was this: our action on the ground is what will prompt leaders to act. Not only demonstrating with placards on the street, but demonstrating what to do as well, as best we can.

Starting at the smallest scale, we all have our own personal carbon footprint and we need to start reducing it. But many people won’t, because their need to live a normal life is too strong. This is why our proposal to introduce our carbon allowances policy is inspirational now even before introduction: people will do what they are prepared to do, regardless of whether anyone else does, if they believe that soon the whole country will be running the carbon allowances framework. That in turn has a knock-on effect of inducing people to engage even more for the climate. The indications are that collectively it will have much bigger impact than attempting to get people to act on their own.