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Plan to ration consumer carbon use

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David Adam

London: A radical plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions by rationing the carbon use of individuals is being drawn up by British government officials. The scheme could force consumers to carry a swipe card that records their personal carbon allocation, with points knocked off each time they buy petrol or tickets for a flight.

Under the scheme, all U.K. citizens from the Queen down would be allocated an identical annual carbon allowance, stored as points on an electronic card similar to air miles schemes or supermarket loyalty cards. Points would be deducted at point of sale for every purchase of non-renewable energy.

People who did not use their full allocation, such as families who do not own a car, would be able to sell their surplus carbon points into a central bank.

High energy users could then buy them motorists who had used their allocation would still be able to buy petrol, with the carbon points drawn from the bank and the cost added to their fuel bills. To reduce total U.K. emissions, the overall number of points would shrink each year.

David Miliband, Environment Secretary, is keen to set up a pilot scheme to test the idea, and has asked officials from four government departments to report on how it could be done.

The move marks the first serious step towards state-enforced limits on the carbon use of individuals, which scientists say may be necessary in the fight against climate change.

It extends the principle of carbon trading already in place between heavy polluters such as power companies and steel makers to consumers, with heavy carbon users forced to buy unused allowances from people with greener lifestyles.

Colin Challen, Labour chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on climate change, which has called for carbon rationing, said: ``It will inevitably have to be introduced so that consumers, along with other sectors, take responsibility for what they do.''

But setting up a local pilot scheme could have problems not least how to stop people driving elsewhere to fill up.


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