Climate Confident

Tackling Climate Crisis: Do Personal Carbon Allowances Hold the Key?

October 25, 2023 Tom Raftery / Denise Baden / Tina Fawcett Season 1 Episode 142
Climate Confident
Tackling Climate Crisis: Do Personal Carbon Allowances Hold the Key?
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Show Notes Transcript

In this week's episode of the Climate Confident podcast, I talked personal carbon allowances with  Prof Denise Baden from Southampton University and Associate Prof Tina Fawcett from Oxford University.

Episode highlights:

  • Carbon Allowances: Denise and Tina explained why such a system, could be a key player in our fight against climate change.
  • Incentivizing Low Carbon Choices: We explored the potential of creating economies of scale for low carbon products. 
  • Fairness and Implementation: While there are hurdles, the potential benefits in terms of encouraging sustainable choices can't be overlooked.

Key Takeaways:

  • Historical Parallels: Comparisons to the EU ETS scheme demonstrate that, persistence could result in tangible benefits. 
  • Net-Zero Transition Tool: If successful, this scheme could exist for about 20 years or so, guiding us towards net-zero and then retiring once we get there.
  • The Struggle of Vested Interests: However, high-carbon lifestyle enthusiasts might not welcome this change with open arms.


Here are Denise and Tina's links:

The video version of this episode is at https://youtu.be/lNmKQCQi7hk

And as ever, stay Climate Confident!

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Credits
Music credits - Intro by Joseph McDade, and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

Denise Baden:

Even if people aren't going on all about climate change, climate change, I think there is this you know, submerged dread, and avoidance and denial. But we know there's something to avoid. We know there's something we are not thinking about and it's the future 'cause it's scary. And I do think someone with some courage and leadership to sell the idea might find there's, more public approval than perhaps they, they realized.

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Climate Confident podcast, the number one podcast showcasing best practices in climate emission reductions and removals. And I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Don't forget to click follow on this podcast in your podcast app of choice to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi, everyone. Welcome to episode 142 of the Climate Confident podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. Before we kick off today's show, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to all of our amazing supporters. Your support has been instrumental in keeping this podcast going, and I am really grateful for each and every one of you. If you're not already a supporter, I'd like to encourage you to consider joining our community of like minded individuals who are passionate about climate. Supporting the podcast is easy and affordable, with options starting as low as just 3 Euros or dollars. That's less than the cost of your latte, and your support will make a huge difference in keeping this show going strong. To become a supporter, simply click on the support link in the show notes of this or any episode, or visit tinyurl. com slash climatepod. Now, without further ado, with me on the show today, I have my two special guests, Tina and Denise. Tina and Denise, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourselves with maybe Tina going first, seeing as Denise has been on the show before?

Tina Fawcett:

Oh, thank you. My name is Tina Fawcett and I'm a senior researcher and associate professor at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, Denise?

Denise Baden:

Hi, yes, I'm Denise Baden. I'm professor of Sustainable Business at the University of Southampton.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. And we are having a conversation today about the topic of personal carbon allowances. So this is something that has been talked about for quite a while, but maybe Tina, would you like to dig in first and explain to people who might be unaware, what are personal carbon allowances? What's, what's the, the idea of personal carbon allowances?

Tina Fawcett:

So the idea of personal carbon allowances is finding a way of reducing national and global carbon emissions in a way that's fair and in a way that engages people so that people are involved in this society-wide reduction we've got to make. And, there are different variants of the idea, as you might imagine, for something that a number of people have worked on. But the basic idea is that within a national carbon cap, each individual would get an equal share of carbon emissions, let's say for their household energy use and transport, energy use, and maybe their consumption of food as well. And when you purchased, a product or a service that involves carbon, not only would you pay the money, you'd have to pay in sort of carbon points or carbon units, throughout the year. And if you spent less than your allowance, you'd have a sort of spare carbon, a set of carbon allowances you could sell to somebody, and if you spent more, you'd need to acquire more carbon allowances. So it's a, it's a way of a way of sharing out the carbon cap.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and is it fair?

Tina Fawcett:

I think it's more fair than some of the alternatives. I mean, there's always this question about if you give people an equal allowance, people's needs can be really quite different. So, if you think about household energy use, actually, if you, if you live in a household on your own, you kind of, you need to heat all your space. Whereas if you move, if one other person moves in with you, let's say you'd have two, two carbon allowances, but you wouldn't use that much more energy as two people, then you do as one. So there are some issues around giving people equal allowances for sure, but it's. You know, it's, it's fundamentally saying we've got this limited resource, which is the amount of carbon we can emit into the atmosphere before we cross into sort of cross really dangerous planetary boundaries. And we're going to give each p person an equal share of that. And of course in practice that means some people will have to do more than others. Some people will find it more difficult than others to live within a sort of carbon, you know, within, within that carbon budget. But it seems to me you're starting from a point of, you know, in principle it's fair, in practice, of course it will have different consequences depending on people's lives and the societies they're living in.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And is this I'll, I'll come to you in a sec. Denise . I can see you're ready to jump in there. Just, I, I, I just wanna clarify this again, Tina. Is this the same idea as the EU ETS as in, as in carbon markets? Just carbon markets give large companies carbon allowances that they can purchase or sell. And, you know, they then decide how to, how to work with those, allowances or permits that they have, and they can trade them. They're day traded every day, about 4 billion a day. Is that the same kind of idea just to scaled down to individuals?

Tina Fawcett:

I mean, I would say yes and no. You know, I mean, yes. In that the idea is the way you are going to reduce carbon emissions is you're going to set a tap. You're going to set a cap, which is gonna reduce over time. You're going to distribute the allowances under that cap. And there's going to be a way of, of, of trading them or exchanging them. But in other ways, it's really quite different because the way that EU ETS has worked up, up to now is mostly around, It's a sort of grandfathering system. So depending on the, you know, companies get given allowances depending on what their current, you know, carbon emissions were. And know, it, it's quite well known that the EU ETS, certainly in earlier phases, there was a lot of so-called hot air, a lot of emissions that was somewhat notional. There's a lot of debate as to how effective the scheme has really been in terms of driving investment into low carbon energy and low carbon options. So I think, I'm a bit reluctant to draw, draw a comparison with that because this is fundamentally about engaging people with the climate issue and it's saying, It's not all your responsibility, but you have got some responsibility and we're gonna give you more information about your carbon emissions. We're going to set a social norm around what's normal, what's normal in terms of consumption and sort of high carbon behaviors, and how those have got to change over time. And yes, there will be a price associated with that because there has to be some buying and selling because people's emissions are so very different at the moment. If you didn't allow any trading, it'd be very hard to set a cap that was meaningful. But I, I feel it's, it's a much more social, it's much more collective than something like the EU ETS and the market bit is only there as a sort of side effect. That's not fundamentally what it's about.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, Denise.

Denise Baden:

Yeah, I like it. I guess from the perspective of a consumer as well, so, and I think, and a lot of people probably can relate to this as a greenie, you spend a lot of your time either feeling hugely guilty, you know, for what you are consuming, and seethingly resentful that other people who don't seem to care. You know, so can at a barbecue, everyone's stuffing their face with beef burgers and you are looking on yearningly with, with your bean burger. Or they've come back from the Maldives, you know, I want to go before it sinks and you come back from your walking holiday in the lake District, which was very nice actually. But but do you know what I mean? I think we feel that what we can do won't make a difference. And if we try and do something, we are kind of constantly in that tension of you kind of taxing my green conscience you know if we do carbon offsets, which are voluntary, and this idea of a personal carbon allowance, it just strikes me as so fair. You've all got your own allowance and you can then adjust it. Yep. So you can think, okay, I've got a dog, you know, that uses a lot of pet food. I can go to insect based pet food and then I can allow myself your beef burger. Or you can make your own trade offs, knowing it's fair. But Pretty well everyone I know either doesn't make any changes 'cause they think, what difference can I make? Or they do and feel resentful or they don't and feel guilty. And none of those are nice places to be psychologically. And none of them really, you know, very few of them help the planet. So I do like personal carbon allowances'cause I think it's really fair and by making people responsible for their own carbon consumption, you then give businesses an incentive to invest. So there's so much technology we could be investing in, and there's so many different alternatives such as, you know, repairing or sharing economy. We, you know, on demand transport, great public transport. It's never really gonna take off because it's always more convenient to have your own car. Whereas if you can really get rewarded for ditching that and going for public transport, suddenly the service will become so much better. So for me, it's the spillover effects that I think could be really transformative in driving investment into low carbon products and services.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. The idea of the personal carbon footprint is something that was, if I read correctly, invented by BP back in the day to kind of make us feel responsible and divert attention away from BP's responsibility or the fossil fuel company's responsibility by, yeah, by making us feel responsible. And in fact, in a lot of cases when they did that, there wasn't much alternative anyway. So I know there are more alternatives now. You have EVs now, which weren't a thing back when the idea of the personal carbon footprint was invented. You know, you, you have lots of things now. Solar is a lot cheaper now, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But is this more of that?

Denise Baden:

I'd say it's the opposite because it's systemic. If you just had personal carbon offsetting, voluntary, then yes, but by giving a personal carbon allowance that you have to live within, it's a systemic solution that applies to everybody. So you said you were gonna ask provocative questions, Tom, but I don't, I would not say so. This is a systemic solution that will apply society-wide. It's so, it's a systemic solution that incorporates all individuals.

Tina Fawcett:

Yeah. Yeah I mean that, that BP thing, I think, I mean, I've, I've tried to follow this, this argument back about oh BP invented carbon footprints and, and I don't think it's true actually. I mean, yes, they use that sort of language quite early, but I don't think that's true, and I know it's a, an argument that some sort of US environmentalists have, have picked up to try and sort of reflect back onto saying, well, actually we need low carbon structures and infrastructure in place. And it's, it's unfair to put all the, you know, responsibility on individuals and I totally agree with that, but I don't think it's right to say that a) BP invented it and it's all a sort of, you know, it's a sort of greenwashing, it's a sort of misdirection sort of thing. I don't, I don't think that's the case at all. There was, you know, there was quite a big phase of, of a lot of reflection on personal carbon footprints. You can see that if you sort of look in the media and look at the number of stories. And then it sort of went away a bit and it's kind of coming back a bit again now actually that sort of reflection back onto the personal. And I think that's partly because we've understood that some choices can only be made by individuals. So like, you know, you choose how far and whether you're going to fly for your holiday and that has a big carbon and, and climate effect. Whereas other things, of course, it's about what the government invests in. If there's no investment in in public transport and you live in the countryside and you your job's somewhere else, then yeah, maybe you are a bit stuck. So it's, you know, we need, clearly we need to look at both. And if a government introduced or a city introduced personal carbon allowances, I mean, part of the demands from the citizenry would be, well, well, where are our low carbon options then? How are we going to do this?

Tom Raftery:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tina Fawcett:

Where are you investing in rail services or, you know, where are you investing in sort of cheaper insulation or whatever it is that people need to enable them to make the right set of choices? So I don't, I'm I'm reluctant to go on the sort of, it's either all, it's all sort of infrastructure or it's all personal. I mean, clearly it's, it's both to, to do what we need to do.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. How Practical is this idea, I mean, how would you measure, I mean, to your point, Denise, about the insect dog food versus dog food based on chicken versus based on salmon or based on beef and I, I, I, I just picked those out because I have a couple of dogs and, you know, I, I do look at the ingredients of them, but nowhere on the packaging does it say the carbon footprint of any of them. In fact, that's an issue. That's a completely separate issue altogether, which we could have another entire podcast on because, and I've, I've mentioned this on the podcast a few times. One of the things I've done is I've given up dairy and, and so I use, oat milk, oatley oat milk in my, in my coffee. And that says, on the, on the carton of Oatley that it's 45 grams, CO2 per liter of Oatley oat milk, which is great or not. Maybe it's terrible, I don't know, because no other milk gives me the carbon footprint of a liter. So, you know, it could be horrendous or it could be fantastic. And so, you know, to to that point, how practical is this to measure the carbon footprint of absolutely everything we do, track that, report it, and then have that tied against our personal carbon footprint.

Denise Baden:

Didn't Tesco say they were gonna carbon footprint all their products a few years ago, and I think this was an issue way back when the idea was first floated, oh, in the early noughties. We didn't yet have that technology, but we've come a long way since then. And there's loads of apps already that enable you to track carbon footprints. Tina you probably know, know more about what's the latest on this.

Tina Fawcett:

Well, I was quite, I mean, well I think there's two answers to that. I mean, but, but one answer on that, actually listening to one of your earlier podcasts, the Commons one. I mean, they, she, the, the, the founder there was making quite an interesting argument that we can't be, we are not a hundred percent accurate if we're trying to add carbon emissions to products, but we can be 80% accurate and maybe that's good enough, which is quite interesting. And quite a lot of these sort of expenditure apps which try to link to carbon take that kind of approach. So that's one thing saying we don't need the precision of carbon labeling on products at the individual level 'cause that's incredibly information intensive. And in fact, Tesco gave up, and I think they ended up carbon labeling about 200 products and they thought they were gonna do 40,000. So, I mean, it's difficult. It's difficult and global supply chains keep changing and blah, blah, blah. So it's, it's really difficult. I mean, the other answer is people like me would say, well, why don't we start with the easy stuff? So start with household energy use and transport, where actually it's very easy to know what the carbon impact of a particular journey is, or per kiloWatt hour of a particular fuel, and then build out from that. So start with the stuff where it's easy and then get onto the other choices as well. So there's, you know, two approaches to thinking about it.

Denise Baden:

Learning by, by doing. They call it, don't they?

Tom Raftery:

Isn't there as well the, the whole question around privacy and, is, is that a concern, do you think, for something like this?

Tina Fawcett:

Well, I, I mean, I think it would be your data and nobody else would know. So you, you would have some sort of carbon account, right? Which you would operate, I guess, via your mobile phone for nearly everybody. That's how they would choose to do it. But, I mean, that data would only be show shared with people you wanted to share it with. And the only thing you would need to do, let's say you'd run out of carbon allowance that year and you needed to pay an energy bill, well then you'd have to buy extra allowances from somewhere and probably your energy company would sell them to you having bought them on the market from, from sort of low carbon emitting people. So I don't think it involves sharing a lot of personal information with anybody.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Cool. Cool. What about people's perceptions of personal carbon allowances? I can see, you know, just from reading the media and reading, a lot of comments on Twitter or LinkedIn posts. A lot of people are already skeptical, more so in the US of the idea of climate change anyway, trying to foist something like this on top of people, I, I, I wonder how that would be perceived.

Denise Baden:

It depends how scared you are, doesn't it? So, I mean, I'm doing a project on climate anxiety at the moment, and the statistics about climate anxiety are staggering. I mean, the majority of young people explicitly have climate anxiety now, and many of them have this sort of suppressed dread. Many, it was a statistic and then my own, my own son sort of came up with something, you know, worried about having children. So once you're scared enough, whether or not you can, you know, continue your lifestyle regardless, becomes less important than can I actually continue to exist in this planet in a sustainable, safe way. So I, I think it goes hand in hand with awareness, and I think Europe is ahead of the curve than America in terms of awareness. Solutions that are systemic in nature are gonna appeal to more collectivist cultures than individualistic cultures. So America's very individualistic more so than Europe. So, in a way I can see it probably being tested out in other countries to gain some traction, perhaps, and some credibility before we can hope it might take off in the country where actually it would have the most impact of all. Tina, what do you think?

Tina Fawcett:

Yeah, no, I think, I think that's a good point. It's, it's, I mean we with some other authors, we sort of wrote a piece and where we were sort of arguing that the sort of country where it could would be most likely to succeed will be a) well, you know, a sort of obviously wealthy countries, ones with sort of, that are highly, you know, where mobile phones and information technology, highly digitalized countries where there's very good information systems that people have got access to that. And also where there's a high degree of trust in government. So we've been speaking to a colleague from Singapore and he keeps saying, well, Singapore would be ideal because there's a high level of trust in government. People are part of a sort of community and you know, people are live highly digitalized, quantified lives and, he felt that that would be the sort of society where you could certainly trial aspects of it. That it would be a sort of policy that would fit with the kind of the way things are done nationally. Whereas it's, I totally agree with Denise. I mean, the US is not where you'd start it. That, that that is for sure, and maybe it wouldn't be necessary. I mean, the question is, is it the right sort of policy for a particular country? In the UK, we've done really well at reducing our carbon emissions nationally, but we are not on track to meet our net zero goal by 2050. So things have got to change. We've got to find mechanisms to help us adopt lower carbon technologies, lower carbon lifestyles. And some of those can just only focus on the technology, but some of them have gotta focus on the people and the communities and the ways of doing things. There are things we're not going to do, you know, the things thinking about sufficiency as well as efficiency. So, you know, we can't just keep doing things the way we've done. It's, it's taken us so far, but, you know, we are not, we are not on track to get where we need to be at the moment. And we've got to have sort of grown up conversations about that.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah. Yeah. do you see any politician who you think would grasp that nettle?

Denise Baden:

I wish David Milaband, was back in politics. He was really on it. Maybe he could be persuaded too. I think he was one of the original supporters of it, wasn't he, Tina?

Tina Fawcett:

He was. Yeah, that's right.

Denise Baden:

Yeah.

Tina Fawcett:

I mean that, that is a good question about the politics of it. And certainly the first time when, when, back in the noughties when we were trying to, myself and colleagues were trying to talk to people about it and, you know, we were talking to, in, in fact, NGOs as well, sort of like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and talking to people about this idea and was it, did they think it was a good, and, and some of them did think it was good, and they also said, yeah, but it's, you know, it's really quite difficult. I mean, we're gonna stick to the things that, you know, because obviously there would be people who don't like the idea and it, it, and it, it, you know, it's, it, they, they thought it would be a bit problematic, but, you know, some of the things that make it difficult aren't a problem anymore. So like the technology has come along such a long way. You can't really argue that this couldn't be done technically. It would be, you know, not very difficult really to do technically and not very expensive to do technically. The question is, are we gonna have a discussion about what kind of changes we're going to make and who's gonna make them or not? We're just gonna keep muddling through and hope technology will save us. I mean, you know, it's done an all right sort of job, but there's no indication that that's gonna get us as far as we need to get to.

Tom Raftery:

Sure, sure, sure, sure. And Denise, I mean, one of the things you said was about getting the word out because lots of people have, lots of particularly younger people have eco anxieties. So how, how would we get the, the word out about the, the importance of doing something like this?

Denise Baden:

Well, one of the things I've been involved in is the Green Stories Project, and the goal there is to embed climate solutions in books, films, plays, and so on. Because if you ask someone to read a dry report on personal carbon trading or you know, it is going to, it is gonna be hard work. But if you embed it in a story, you can see how it affects all the different characters and say you can live it. And it's actually a much more engaging way to get the word out. So I've just, written a play, which is based on my book, the Assassin, which is one of the short stories in No More Fairytales, Stories To Save Our Planet. And it imagines eight people in a citizens assembly debating climate solutions. And then there's a murder. So you've got the whodunit, which is a nice sort of bit to keep people engaged. But, one of the solutions is personal carbon allowances. So you have the different characters and they all come to it with, with different issues. They're all different people, so one of them, you know, who struggles with money, who's gonna be better off? I think it was said that 71% of those in lower income brackets would be better off under personal carbon allowances You know, the, the wealthy guy is less keen. The ones with climate anxiety are like, I'll give up what I want. Just please take the fear away. I think this will help. So you can see everyone's got their own agenda. It would affect people in different ways. People are worried about different things. So, the play Murder In The Citizen's Jury and the story, The Assassin, and it comes up in quite a few stories in No More Fairytales Stories To Save Our Planet approached in different ways. So for me, that's one way to engage the, the public in really understanding it as it would affect them, rather than understanding it from an academic perspective. But I, I think it also needs to get on the agenda of more politicians and, and when I've spoken to them, not many actually really understand it. And if they do, they think, well, yes, this would be transformative, but is it politically palatable? But I think what they're underestimating is the level of fear.

Tom Raftery:

right.

Denise Baden:

So, even if people aren't going on all about climate change, climate change, I think there is this subdue, you know, submerged dread, and avoidance and denial. But we know there's something to avoid. We know there's something we are not thinking about and it's the future 'cause it's scary. And I do think someone with some courage and leadership to sell the idea might find there's, you know, more poli, more public approval than perhaps they, they realized.

Tom Raftery:

That'd They'd be pushing an open door, you think?

Denise Baden:

I think so, I think you've just gotta sell the idea and take some leadership on it, because I think people think we want this problem solved, and as long as we're all in it together, I don't mind. But so many of the things are so piecemeal and disconnected, this would be transformative, across every level. It would steer business towards sustainable products, it would transform society. So of course it's not going to be as easy and as straightforward as just twiddling around with the tax rate, but the payoffs would be so much greater and I think there might be a great big breathing out of relief. Oh, we'll moan about it, but thank God actually someone's doing something.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, the idea of Singapore doing it, I can see. The government there has a lot more control over people's lives than most than many other governments. It's a tiny country though, , I mean, something like this needs to happen a lot more broadly than just the city state of Singapore, no?

Tina Fawcett:

Yeah, for sure. And, and the question has always been how would you, if you wanted to do this, how do you, how do you build the case? Right? How'd you get the evidence to show that? Actually, we think it would be really effective.'cause we think it gives people information, feedback, social norms, you know, all these kind of academic theorizing around why this policy should be really powerful and a lot better than say a carbon tax and a lot fairer than a carbon tax. But, but we don't know for certain. And so, know, one way is if somewhere like Singapore would adopt it. Another way might be to say, okay, let's let's use this just for one sector. So people have talked quite a lot about flying and the idea of having, something like a frequent flyer levy or you could go, or a, you know, a flying allowance rather, you know, we, we sort of tax flights somewhat at the moment, although not nearly as much as other forms of travel. But you, you could maybe pick one sector where it's very clear that it's the rich who fly and not the poor. If you were going to have some sort of mechanism in flying, you know, for certain it would be progressive, right? So it's the people who are creating the greatest sort of climate impact would be the people who would be disadvantaged under a policy like that. And the people who are not impacting climate would be rewarded for that. So that might be another way of thinking about how could we try this idea out, because you know, there's, I mean, I think flying's a bit unique in the sense of there's no, there's no real magic technology coming along in the next 10 or 15 or 20 years that can give us, you know, the same access to flying with, with sort of very low carbon emissions. It's not like electric vehicles and it's not like switching to low carbon electricity or renewables. It's, you know, it's a long way in the future if we ever get there. So that, you know, it might be that you pick something like that.

Denise Baden:

I would love that idea. I would extend it to travel though, because I do think the solution is not just everyone to switch to EVs. I mean, we don't have enough lithium in the world and getting it out is no picnic. So

Tom Raftery:

loads of lithium in the world. That's not gonna be an issue. Seriously, seriously, if you, if you look at the numbers, there's loads of lithium. In fact, they just found a new, a new, dunno what the, the, the, the word is, but a new load of lithium in, in America, in, um,

Denise Baden:

We've got something

Tom Raftery:

it in Nevada? Somewhere like that.

Denise Baden:

it's not a pretty business taking it out from under the sea, from, you know, from mining. It's not a, a clean

Tom Raftery:

true. It's not, but it displaces mining, oil and petroleum and the amount that you have to extract to make the batteries for EVs is insignificant in terms of the amount that you have to extract for oil and, petrol and diesel. You know, it's something like for fossil fuels, you are extracting I can't remember the numbers now, but it's something like 365 times more resources from the soil than you are for EVs. So, no, that the, the, the lithium thing, it's, it's not an issue.

Denise Baden:

Good to know. but I have heard that the embedded carbon in an ev you need to be driving about 25,000 miles before it kind of pays off.

Tom Raftery:

it's around 17,000 miles. Yeah. But that's, that's a year and a half of an average driver I would imagine.

Denise Baden:

Yeah. But even better. Would be to have such great and accessible and cheap and wonderful public transport that you didn't need your own car. I mean, people I know who live in London, they don't run their own car. They don't need to. So if you had that kind of level of public transport that goes where you want it to go, supplemented perhaps by, by driving ride share apps and so on, that would be even better. That would be a truly sustainable solution. So if you have a, personal carbon allowance that applies to travel in general, I mean, obviously flights would be a huge part of that, but it would start steering investment towards those more sustainable options. And they'd be great for, especially rural communities where, you know, if you don't have your own car and teenagers in rural communities are stranded unless, you know, their parents are constantly get, you know, providing them with lifts and so on. So, I do see a lot of potential there to create something good for society if we just start with travel. So there's a number of ways we could do it. We could start with a small country to gain credibility, or we can start with a small aspect of our, you know, pick the most high carbon consumption sector and just focus on that and develop it from there.

Tom Raftery:

Sure, and I think it would be important as well to reassure people that a scheme like this would not be punitive unless you happen to be a really high emitter of carbon and you know, that's only the top X percent of people, whatever that x is.

Denise Baden:

Yeah.

Tina Fawcett:

Yes. I mean, we still don't know, you know, the data on, you know, carbon emissions across the population, it's still a bit sketchy really. We kind of base it on expenditure, which yeah, you know, you can match it with carbon emissions, but only up to a point. But I think what we do know is that, there's a sort of tail of high emitters and so most people are somewhat below average or a bit below average because the sort of the mean is high because there's these kind of high emitters. And let's say we bring this, this policy in, in this, or whenever it is, people's emission allowances would be going down every year as we head towards net zero. And you know, and the, what, what moves around then is the price of a, of a carbon allowance. And if most people are reducing their emissions, and that actually should stay quite low. I mean, if it's sky high, then that's, sort of bad sign. It means most people aren't investing in efficiency or not giving up that extra flight, or the city hasn't made bus journeys available or whatever it is. That's not enabling people to live lower carbon lifestyles. So you would kind of hope if we do it right, the price doesn't become the only driver. Actually, it's that sort of, what's my fair share? What's my neighbor doing? What information have I got? What nice low carbon options have I got? Actually, I don't really want to use the car. I'll use my e-bike instead. Or maybe I'll actually not take that journey and I'll, you know, Skype into my meeting. So, you know, it's gotta be part of a transformation. If nobody was interested in living a low carbon life, obviously it wouldn't work,

Tom Raftery:

Yeah,

Tina Fawcett:

It wouldn't work. If nobody was unable to live that sort of life, it wouldn't work.

Tom Raftery:

it needs a certain amount of peer pressure as well, I gotta think. I was talking to a Norwegian guy last week and he was saying that, you know, now, the sales of EVs in Norway is in excess of 90% of new car sales. And he said if somebody does buy a new car and it's not an EV, they're kind of looked at ascanse and it's similar to, you know, lighting up a cigarette in a hospital room, you know, it's or on a plane. It's, it's, you know, or in a restaurant, people kind of go, you didn't buy an EV? Why? You know, it's irresponsible almost. So, I think we've gotta have something a, a similar kind of transformation of people's mindset, for something like this to take place or to make something like this successful, no?

Denise Baden:

Well, in some ways, maybe you need less peer pressure because there's a personal incentive, isn't there? So at the moment, the only reason I wouldn't fly to the Maldives, you know, while eating steak on the journey you know, it's, it's my own personal green conscience, but also there's an element of people being judgy. Yeah. But I would feel much better about it if I was being rewarded for my good behavior. It's not very nice going around being judgy or guilty or, or resentful. Much better to actually align your personal incentives with the desired behavior. So I would think if I'm rewarded for, for not behaving that way or rewarded for my walking trip to the Lake District, then I might feel less bad about the fact that other people are doing that.'cause at the moment I'm thinking, well, they're all having fun 'cause they don't care. And now I can think, well, they're paying through the nose for it, so Ha ha,

Tina Fawcett:

I mean that's, I think it's very interesting the way Denise is focusing on sort of, you know, emotions and things like that, 'cause of course as a sort of, I don't know, an energy policy academic, I'm sort of thinking about, oh, you know, know, the carbon emissions per kiloWatt hour and the sort of, you know, the techy aspects of it. But of course this is, you know, it's, it is about, collective action is about social norms as well as it's about prices, as well as it's about, you know, getting feedback on your behaviors. And so there's all sorts of things going on. I think one thing that's, so, I mean this seems like an aside, but if we think about, for example, smart meters, for example, when smart meters came in, and if you have an in-home display, what the research shows is without giving people any additional advice, they can sustain energy savings of about 3% a year over time, and they may even increase over time. Right. And that's, that's just the power of actually getting feedback on your behavior of understanding a bit better, the energy use in your home. I mean, you can do things to help people make more, much more savings than that based on that data and, you know, better advice. you know, just even the feedback of having a carbon allowance and going, oh, right, I'm three times the national average, am I? You know, I mean, that does matter. That that just, even that step, even if there was no penalty, right, even if you introduced this as an information measure and you didn't straight away start talking about what happens if you exceed your cap, which is, I think in reality what you'd do first, it would come in as information and then we'd say, and from next year or the year after, actually we're gonna start meaning it. And if you exceed your cap after that, you know, you give people maybe a, a learning year where they can work out where they are. And what options are available to them, and then you, then you start applying a penalty I think so you can, yeah. You can see it as a source of, you know, hope, a source of information, a source of, you know, encouragement to make the right sort of changes rather than just some sort of penalty and a big stick that we're gonna hit people with

Denise Baden:

And also don't forget,

Tom Raftery:

much like the

Denise Baden:

you, from going under it.

Tina Fawcett:

Yes.

Denise Baden:

So there's, there's this carrots as well as sticks. So while I'm cycling up the hill to work instead of seething at my colleague who's flying down from Edinburgh every day, I could be selling in some of my carbon credits.

Tina Fawcett:

Yeah, I mean,

Tom Raftery:

It, it sounds, again, it sounds very much like how the EU ETS scheme started out where companies were given far more allowances than they needed. And so, you know, it, it took time for the cap to come down and come down and come down for it to be effective. But in the meantime, they were getting used to the system and getting used to reporting to it and getting used to buying and selling. And now it's become an effective mechanism and it's reducing emissions. I think, uh, something like a a gigaton has come out of the system now as a consequence of ETS scheme, and they're reducing it at the moment. It's 2% a year, but they're ramping up for the Fit for 55 to over 4% a year now. So, I do see, parallels there and I, I, I think you're right. I think it would have to be brought in, in a phased manner, rather than an overnight Boom, no more, uh, carbon for you, Mr.

Tina Fawcett:

Yeah, but. But I think hopefully you'd want it to get effective faster than the EU ETS.'cause I think it's reasonable to say the first 10 years of that scheme were a bit debatable about how much positive change that really drove. But then hopefully we've learned from that that we can move in faster. Because I think the other thing about this scheme is if it works, right, if it's helping us to get towards net zero, it'll only, you know, what will it be in for 20 years and then we won't need it anymore, more or less, 20 something years. I mean, after that, hopefully, we are living in some sort of net zero economy where we've completely decarbonized the energy system. We're doing all the, you know, other stuff around land management and peat and you know, all the other type elements of greenhouse gas emissions. And maybe, know, this is a transition tool to help us all get to where we need to get to.

Denise Baden:

I like the idea as well that it will enable economies of scale for low carbon products. So at the moment, I put my hand in my pocket to pay twice what I should would do to get insect based dog food, hence me mentioning it earlier. But it is a big expense. You know, I've got, I've got two dogs, so if we're all doing that, if that's rewarded, you know, if that comes out of our carbon allowance, you know, these companies that produce it can really take off and then it will become cheaper and it will just become easier and easier to live a low carbon lifestyle.

Tina Fawcett:

Yeah.

Tom Raftery:

Fair point, fair point. We're coming towards the end of the podcast now. Is there any question I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to think about?

Tina Fawcett:

Well, I mean, I was just gonna talk a little bit about the research that's been done on this, and particularly the research around, well, what do people think of it? Because actually it's one of those ideas that you can explain it to somebody in two minutes and then they can start having an argument with you very quickly. As I know from talking to students and talking to public groups about it, it's, it's, it's quite easy to grasp the idea and what's really at stake, which makes it fascinating for discussions, really. But there's been quite a lot of research on, on different, with different groups in different countries and, and people always come back to two issues with this idea. There's, there's the one is the fairness and the other is the implementation. And I think we've covered that a lot in the podcast. And those are the two things people are concerned about. And if they think it's fair and if they think it could be done practically, then they tend to be in favor. And if they think it's unfair or they don't really believe you could have a policy like this, they tend to be against it. So that's where we need to make the argument and make the case with people. If it's going to get public acceptance and if it's gonna get political acceptance, those are the things that we need to focus on.'cause that's what people, that's how they engage with this idea.

Denise Baden:

One issue though is avoids, that avoids the issue of vested interests. So you may think it's fair, but if it doesn't benefit you personally, if you are a very high carbon lifestyle person, then you know you're gonna have those people badmouthing it and spreading misinformation. And you know, their reach sometime is, is disproportionately loud because

Tom Raftery:

own social networks,

Denise Baden:

'cause they own social networks, they want to go to the moon for God's sake. We are talking about traveling to Maldives. So , so this is something that I think we, we need to be prepared for as well. It's just that the trash talking and spreading of misinformation'cause clearly it is fair. Yeah. Um, I think that argument's been made and, you know, it can be implemented. It's just a question of how, so it's tackling those other voices which are just really protecting their own high carbon lifestyles.

Tom Raftery:

Fair.

Tina Fawcett:

I think, I think that's a fair point and again, the research would back you up on that. People with higher emissions tend to be a bit more skeptical about it than people with lower emissions. Obviously it's self-interest, but, but, but I mean, I think another encouraging thing is it's not particularly a left right thing. You know, so you've got people on the right and people on the left supporting this as an idea.'cause people can find different values in it, right? They can find it reflecting their values in different ways. And I think that's quite encouraging. This isn't only an idea for the sort of red, green type people. It's an idea that can work for everybody. And I think that's, that's really important.

Denise Baden:

Yep.

Tom Raftery:

Cool. Cool. Great. Super. Tina, Denise, if people would like to know more about yourselves or any of the things we discussed in the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

Denise Baden:

Tina?

Tina Fawcett:

That's a good question. There isn't, there isn't one place, but I think, if you, we've got a very nice little short YouTube animated video and if you look for personal carbon allowances for set, on YouTube, you should find that. And that's quite a nice sort of three minute introduction to the idea.

Tom Raftery:

Send me the link to that and I'll include it in the show notes Tina. Denise?

Denise Baden:

Well, my website, which has got my books, which talk about that, is dabaden.com. Just all one word dabaden. And also you will find, a lot of stuff on this, on green stories.org.uk. and you will also find, Tina's work there as well because we've referenced that in our book, No More Fairytales Stories To Save The Planet. Each solution in there links to a page on the website where there's more information to learn more about it. So, personal carbon allowances are, are covered there as well.

Tom Raftery:

Perfect. Awesome, Tina Denise, that's been great. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.

Denise Baden:

Thank you for inviting us.

Tina Fawcett:

Thank you.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about the Climate Confident podcast, feel free to drop me an email to tomraftery at outlook. com or message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you like the show, please don't forget to click follow on it in your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.

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