The worst possible objection to personal carbon credits

Tony Benn speaks at an anti-war rally, 2006Britain’s aged socialist icon Tony Benn demonstrates why socialists can’t be trusted with environmental policy as he denounces the idea of tradeable personal carbon allowances.

I’m not hot on the idea myself, which is being kicked around by Britain’s current environment minister, because I can’t imagine any government introducing something just about as complex as a second currency to any modern economy without screwing it up — actually, probably more complex than a second currency, because its value would have to be re-pegged periodically according to how much carbon … — look, anyway, nobody could get it right.

But get a load of Benn:

In the war it was a criminal offence for me to sell my ration book to somebody else, because the purpose of the rationing was to see that everybody had a fair share … If we need to ration [carbon expenditure] that’s one thing, but fair distribution is the key to it. If the world is short of resources we have to ration them, which is different from selling them… The earth is a common treasure; it is a crime to buy and sell it for personal gain.

So in Benn’s vision, virtue cannot be rewarded. Also, during the war, nobody traded rations of stuff they didn’t want to get stuff they did, and if they did, it was wrong. Why would anybody listen to this?

(Photo credit: “Tony Benn,” Flickr/BinaryApe)


One response to “The worst possible objection to personal carbon credits

  1. Carbon Rationing might be going a little too far, but including personal carbon credits that are packaged and payed for buy companies with products, in addition to a carbon tax imposed by the government would be a good way of fueling a carbon credit producing industry.

    Personal carbon credits remind consumers that every action has an environmental impact. Big businesses are striving for greener images, so let them use there economical power to find greener solutions. Directing money towards CDM projects creates an economy for Co2 reduction, and much needed ‘green’ industry to places like India, Africa, and China.

    Sir John Houghton, the former co-chairman of the IPCC talks about the green wave in consumerism in an interview with, and says “I have often thought the taxation route is the simplest method to reach emissions targets. However, perhaps we need more than one route forward and a combination of a cap and trade and taxation would be best ”

    Personal Carbon Credits use a cap and trade system, but act as a tax to businesses. Consumers can demand that there purchases be offset by the retailers and use their purchasing power to reduce Co2. On a large scale the reduction of Co2 could be enormous. Personal Carbon Credits already exist at The site uses 50% earnings towards buying Gold Standard Eligible carbon credits, and the shareholders do not take any dividends.

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