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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 January, 2004, 12:01 GMT
Scientists urge fuel quota scheme
People using little fuel could sell units to those using a lot
Scientists say a national trading scheme in carbon emissions is the UK's best hope for tackling climate change.

The Tyndall Centre says that under the scheme every adult would be allocated a fixed number of units of carbon fuel such as petrol and gas.

People living "green" lifestyles could sell units they did not use to people who led more polluting lifestyles.

This would help the UK slash the carbon emissions which are linked to global warming, the scientists say.

The government is committed to dramatic cuts in carbon emissions in the coming years, with a target of a 60% reduction by the year 2050.

The researchers say the carbon trading idea would be the best way of doing this.

People who use less than the average amount of carbon fuel could sell [units] to other people living in larger houses or driving bigger cars
Dr Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre

Dr Kevin Anderson, one of the scientists behind the idea, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme how it could work.

"Broadly, we'd have a national target for the carbon emissions we'd be permitted to emit in any particular year...

"This would be split amongst all of the population, all the adult citizens, and it would be an equal allocation per adult citizen.

"So when you bought your coal or your gas, or when you went to the petrol station, you would pay for the petrol in the normal manner, and then you would actually use your smart card with your allocation on it, and simply have that scanned through and it would remove your units.

"People who use less than the average amount of carbon fuel could sell those to other people living in larger houses or driving bigger cars."

Fairer way

The researchers say the idea is in the "blue skies phase" and admit that many problems need to be overcome before such a system could be set up.

But they say it offers a better deal to poor people than an alternative proposal - the carbon tax, which is basically a rise in the price of fuel.

Dr Anderson said a carbon tax could also cause unrest if it was seen simply as a way for a government to make money out of people.

There are already some emissions trading schemes in operation in the UK and across the world - mostly with businesses or countries buying and selling quotas.

A government spokesman said although the idea of a trading scheme for individuals seemed extreme, climate change presented a very serious challenge and it was a welcome contribution to the debate.

The Tyndall Centre, based at the University of East Anglia, has been co-hosting a conference in Cambridge on technical solutions to climate change.

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