The sky trust
Came across this free resource, Carbon Capping: A Citizen’s Guide, whilst doing some research into carbon trading. There’s little doubt that the climate change issue is front and centre now (although there are still some naysayers out there). We’ve probably moved beyond the problem to trying to find solutions. And a leading solution could quite possibly be the Sky Trust.
The Sky Trust involves the notion of carbon capping. Climate change isn’t just an environmental problem. It’s the result of economic and political failure. Market failure because carbon dioxide is being dumped into the atmosphere with no limits or prices for doing so. The cost of all this will shift to future generations if we don’t do something pronto. And of course, we are all in the clutches of Big Business and Governments continue to allow corporations to pollute. In 2006, for example, 65% of US Federal energy subsidies went to fossil fuels.
So it’s really getting down to the question of “who should own the sky?” (Just as I reckon a future question will be “who should own the moon and its resources?”). The atmosphere belongs to the commons, it’s not private property. There are three possible answers to the question of who should own the sky. The first is Big Business who pollute the atmosphere and persuade Governments to allow them to pollute so that the economy will keep humming along. The price for emitting noxious carbon dioxide gets shunted to you and me. The second possible answer is Government and the third answer is us – all of us as co-owners.
To achieve the ideal solution of us all owning the sky, a descending economy-wide carbon cap will guarantee a pre-determined decrease in carbon emissions by a pre-determined date. Here’s how it works. A carbon cap would involve issuing of permits and each year the number of permits is reduced. To cut emissions 80% for example in 40 years, the number of permits would be decreased by 2% each year. It would be like a carbon tax, a decreasing carbon cap would drive up the price of fossil fuels. And as fewer permits become available, research and investment in finding cleaner alternatives would be the outcome. Less carbon would be swirling in the atmosphere.
To achieve this, it’s proposed that a trust be set up (either by Government or a not-for-profit) and the trust would sell a declining number of permits. The trust returns the proceeds to citizens and households through monthly dividends. But the dividends would depend on how much energy you use: the more you guzzle, the less return. If you conserve energy, you receive more. This is a cap-and-dividend system.
I think the Sky Trust is a really interesting and creative proposition but there are a few questions left answered for me. For example, I didn’t get a feel for how household use of energy would be measured in order to determine issuing of a dividend. Download the document and I’d be interested to hear what you think.