Politicians and lawmakers are persistently ignoring a win-win policy proposal that could accelerate progress towards a zero carbon society in a fair and equitable fashion.
A study published last year showed that public support could be more easily won for such a transformation if governments implemented a quantity-based energy quota system with a fixed and decreasing cap on total use, rather than relying on carbon pricing and taxation mechanisms.
In a wide-ranging paper published in the Carbon Management journal, researchers from the Fleming Policy Centre set out the potential of a policy framework termed Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) for meeting the ambitious carbon emissions reductions targets required to address the climate crisis.
They argue that the TEQs framework offers the most effective, equitable and expeditious way to bridge the gulf between climate science and political reality since it anticipates and overcomes some of the reasons for public resistance to transformative climate policies.
Yet the framework — devised by British researchers and which has the backing of the UK Green Party and has had an airing in a UK parliamentary group — has not gained any traction in political circles, despite offering an intelligent and comprehensive response to the unfolding tragedy of climate change and despite the highly challenging climate targets facing developed countries such as the UK.
The paper explains that carbon taxes — the currently favoured, albeit hypothetical, response to the climate crisis — are unpopular because they make energy more expensive and would impose a greater financial strain on the poorest in society, who could end up priced out of the energy market and suffering fuel poverty.
By contrast, TEQs would increase equality of access to energy, meaning everyone would get a guaranteed entitlement (in the form of allocated TEQs units) to purchase energy. Above that standard entitlement, the more people use, the more they pay, since they would need to purchase additional TEQs units.
Because the units are tradable, and so can be sold as well as bought, intensive fossil fuel users would effectively have to pay lower energy users for the privilege of using more than their fair share.
The downwards economic pressure on carbon-based energy use would facilitate investment and innovation in low-carbon energy sources and living, providing financial incentives for low-carbon communities and livelihoods and encouraging a sense of shared community action towards the common goal of mitigating climate change.
One of the authors, Dr Victoria Hurth of Plymouth University, said: “According to a 2013 study by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, 71 per cent of households in the lowest three income deciles would benefit from implementing TEQs, whereas 55 per cent in the highest three income deciles would face higher costs. Not only that, the hard cap would mean that the TEQs price (set at national level) would rise if too many people use more than their fair share, so the framework would create a shared incentive to lower overall energy consumption, motivating all energy users to cooperate on solutions to the energy and climate crisis. Finally, TEQs would guarantee that a nation meets its emissions reductions targets.”
ReStory commits to pursuing the newly formed UK government department concerned with energy and industry (in the absence of one concerned specifically with climate change) to find out exactly why it persists in discounting this no-brainer of an idea — and what it would take for it to reconsider.