David Miliband suggested that implementing a carbon credit card would be an efficient way to track and reduce an individual’s carbon usage, and incentivise using products/services with a lower carbon footprint. Click here to read an article about it.
Miliband thought that everyone could have a carbon credit card – and every transaction, journey and purchase would require the credit card to be swiped, and more or less would come off depending on the carbon footprint of your purchase. If you ran out of credit, and needed more, you could purchase off of someone who still had a lot of carbon on their credit card.
This idea is an alternative to green taxation. Although green taxes allow more individual freedom, they make environmentally harmful behaviour the privilege of the rich, which isn’t fair. A carbon credit card is more like a kind of rationing as everyone has the same carbon allowance which is fairer, but there is still some room to manoeuvre if you allow unspent carbon to be sold to those who need more than they have. Hence when others have run out of carbon, they can buy some of the leftover carbon from those who aren’t using as much.
Since then, a few others have gotten on board with the idea of tracking carbon usage and finding a way to reward those who are reducing.
This short video will explain how carbon credit cards work.
Currently carbon trading, pricing and offsetting exists but mostly at the company level as opposed to individuals, however extending these ideas to individuals to create a kind of carbon-based currency would be transformational. Similar ideas have been floated about Personal Carbon Allowances. They didn’t catch on when they were first proposed a decade or so ago, but now the climate crisis is becoming more urgent and we can better measure the carbon footprint of products, services and activities, maybe they will get taken up, see https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/personal-carbon-allowances-budgets
Story Ideas Around The Carbon Credit Card
Perhaps your hero or heroine could have to use a lot of energy as part of the plot and then have their carbon credit card declined and need to justify getting more carbon credits.
You could extend the idea to include social factors as well as environmental ones. For example all products and services could be rated green, orange or red depending on whether they were manufactured in good or bad working conditions and with good or bad environmental impact. So a character might hear on the news for example that a mobile phone supplier is now upgraded because they have improved their worker satisfaction rates, or addressed their planned obsolescence issues.
There are two ways to try to allocate scarce resources – by a free market or by allocation. For the first you can persuade people to be greener by applying green taxes or green subsidies – but that can be criticised by making energy use or pollution etc. a privilege of the rich. Another way is by a kind of rationing. This is arguably fairer – but the moment rations or allocations are introduced you are likely to get some kind of black market, and again this can be a focus for the plot or a sub-plot in the background.