Following on from last weeks blog about the carbon equivalent output of various activities we examine some of the issues around policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Interviewer: I take it that you are concerned about human induced climate change?
CosergInfo: Of course its a major problem though you would not think so if you followed the media or the majority of politicians.
Interviewer: So what do you think are the issues around dealing with climate change – what about the potential for a tax on meat say?
CosergInfo: Well the main problem is getting people to accept that there is a problem and that we need to act. As for the option of a tax on meat well there are some interesting questions about that and other ideas to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Interviewer: What do you mean?
CosergInfo: If you focus on one area not only do you annoy one group who feel they are being picked on but the policy may have other unforeseen effects. Meat eaters will say what about people who fly abroad several times a year and if there is a tax on meat it will impact on the poor whereas the rich will not notice it.
Interviewer: Are there other examples of this problem then?
CosergInfo: Well yes. Lets consider exhortations to people living in urban areas to walk or cycle around. Fine in itself, walking can be a pleasant way of getting around. But you cannot really do your weekly shop by walking and what if it’s pouring down with rain (lots of that in Cornwall)? Then we have to consider those who are not expected to walk (or cycle). If you live say 7 miles away there would be little expectation that you should walk. Now it’s not always the case but there is a tendency for more affluent people to live outside urban areas and poorer people to live in the centres of urban areas. We have a situation where urban dwellers (possibly less affluent) are expected to walk whereas rural dwellers (possibly more affluent) can drive. And not only that but more affluent households would be doing more driving anyway!
Interviewer: So how do we deal with that?
CosergInfo: Well taxes and other demand management tools can play their part but if we want to deal with the equity issue we also have to look at having a fairer distribution of income and wealth.
Interviewer: That sounds fine in theory but in practise?
CosergInfo: In practice its more difficult but we have to make a start and it would help if there was a more holistic approach to the whole issue rather than isolated policies.
Interviewer: Is there anything else we could do?
CosergInfo: One approach would be to introduce a personal carbon budget for everyone.
Interviewer: How would that work?
CosergInfo: Everyone would get a budget for the amount of carbon they could use each year. Then people could choose how they wished to use their carbon allowance. If you wanted to drive to work instead of catching a bus, ok but you would have to cut your usage somewhere else!
Interviewer: Well thanks for that, more comments on this later i imagine?
CosergInfo: Yes, there is plenty to debate here. A good starting point is: