Carbon Trading a Symptom of Inaction

| July 24, 2009

The current carbon industry has it all wrong. The focus is wrong and the objectives are not achievable. Most people have no idea what it is and how they can help or become a part of it.  

I had an idea recently. Each and every person on the planet is issued with a carbon credit voucher. A voucher may entitle a person over his or her lifespan to a certain amount of carbon expenditure – pull a figure from the clouds! It’s like a certificate to pollute. You can use it, or you could save it. You can accrue over the years, but you can only accrue a maximum of 2 years. You can trade your carbons over the internet in exchange for cash from big companies or you could sell your carbons to a third party carbon gateway. Perhaps you place your precious carbons into the care of a carbonation firm to sell off to fuel your retirement. Maybe you will donate them to a good cause.
If your a big user of carbon credits, you’ll need to top up your account. But that shouldn’t be too hard as there will be plenty of people taking the cash option in exchange for moderate behavior changes. As poorer communities sell off their carbon credits, they may choose to invest into alternative energy pathways to secure an ongoing investment they found in a little element they only knew of as life.  
So what does it all mean?
Basically the carbon economy is based on the habits of individuals. If we didn’t use that much power, would the power companies continue to burn to produce the amount we used to use. No they would reduce the production. If we didn’t want all that plastic crap – the companies wouldn’t keep producing it. They might focus on other goods and services that didn’t have such a high carbon expense.
Each and every item in the supermarket not only has health information, but it has the carbon credits that were expended in its production. You may, or may not, choose the healthier option that had the least carbon credits against it. Companies could advertise a lesser carbon cost, if they had invested or were committed to improving methods of production to save energy and water and to decrease the impact on the environment.  
‘The onus will and should always be on the individual as if given a choice only the individual, through their sheer numbers will ever bring about the level of change required to reach carbon credit targets’
Dion_Milok is my pen name. My birth name is Tasha Keys. I’m a mother, part time writer, science, journalism graduate with 15 years experience in running Environmental Education and PR campaigns for Universities, Industry and Private Enterprise.  Currently writing a fiction novel and starting an online business  


  1. StephenWilson

    July 24, 2009 at 6:54 am

    It’s all too hard

    Dion_milok suggests that carbon costs be made more visible, so that "Each and every item in the supermarket not only has health information, but it has the carbon credits that were expended in its production."
    It’s a well intended idea, but it’s a diversion. Carbon trading is a means to an end — the Big Idea is that we transition to power sources that don’t put CO2 into the atmosphere. Our societal fixation on carbon has to be temporary. The very relevance of carbon had better decrease and the sooner the better. So why should we invest more energy (literally) in making carbon credits such a part of everyday life?
    In detail, the proposal to label all goods according to their associated carbon costs is probably impossible in practice. A can of beans manufactured in a plant powered from coal will have to have a different rating from the same can of beans made using green energy. Further, hopefully the carbon rating will change (down) rather rapidly, so again, the one product will have shifting ratings. A nightmare to manage.


    And fundamentally we need to steer clear of blaming produce for carbon. By and large, the manufacture of goods does not itself emit carbon into the atmosphere — it’s the generation of power from fossil fuels that emits carbon!! Even the much loathed air conditioner doesn’t "emit carbon". If my house was plugged into pure solar power, I could run all the air-con I liked, guilt free.


    So, it’s far far better that we keep the pressure on governments for the proper solution: get out of fossil fuelled power generation ASAP.


    Stephen Wilson


    • Dion_Milok

      July 24, 2009 at 6:56 am

      Carbon Trading

      Thanks Stephen for your comment. I couldn’t agree more with your points you raised. My idea – was stated as an idea. While not practical in our current mode of thought – neither was the concept of walking on the moon, or correcting gene defects or mapping of the human genome. Lets think of what is impossible and perfect and work backwards to what is achievable to bring about on the ground results (less energy use).

      True – carbon trading is a means to an end. Having a solar home myself, I have experienced the feeling of independence and goodness that comes with it.
      Even though I agree with you in regards to the power issue, I can’t steer blame from manufacturing which has massive energy consumption by way of administration, workers getting to and from work, all night lighting, freezers, security needs, distribution networks and transport, paper use etc, marketing (more paper) and so on, its not carbon in itself (in the can of baked beans)- but it is a smoking stack of power in all the affiliated activity to get that can on the shelf and to successfully convince someone to buy it!


      • StephenWilson

        July 24, 2009 at 8:11 am

        But let’s be clear about the issues

        I totally agree that energy efficiency is crucial; even if we had a CO2-free electricity system, it would be crazy to waste energy.  So cutting energy consumption in manufacturing is very worthwhile.  I just don’t think it should be done via some proxy like carbon credits.  Let us attack the actual problem and find ways to make organisations less wasteful.

        I don’t want to be seen to be over-reacting to good ideation.  But … we need to be very careful not to have our ideas — even our lateral thinking and our well intentioned stimulating speculations — shaped by wrong agendas.  Long term, carbon trading is not sustainable.  It’s not intended to be sustainable, because we (should) desperately want the carbon itself to disappear.  A well designed carbon trading system will have the price of carbon deliberately stepped up over time so that carbon-emitting endeavours eventually become prohibitively expensive.  The trading scheme is meant to create economic incentives for interim displacement activities. 

        So, call me a curmudgeon, but I rail against any ideas that in effect normalise carbon trading over the long term, or that make carbon trading needlessly a part of other activities. 

        I say again, greenhouse gasses are not, by and large, emitted by  manufacturing or air conditioning or computers or data centres (I really have trouble with the "green ICT" thing!).  They are emitted by coal fired power stations!  We primarily need alternative energy sources, and carbon trading is intended to help that cause. 

        We secondarily need better energy efficiency.  We also need alternative non-fossil fuel automotive power and aeroplane power.  These are all different tasks and I don’t see any point looking at them all — even conceptually — through the lens of carbon trading.  


        Stephen Wilson.

  2. Dr Gideon Polya

    November 23, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Carbon trading a symbol of inaction.

    Dion_Milok is correct if, as with all decent, anti-racist folk in the world, we believe that “all men are created equal”. Accordingly the bottom-line for national and international climate justice should be equal carbon credits for all.


     Annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included (see Wikipedia, “List of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capita”: ; Dr Gideon Polya, “Pro-coal Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) devalues Australian lives, threatens Biosphere and ignores Science”, 2009: ; Dr Gideon Polya “Climate justice & climate injustice: Australia wants a 2020 per capita GHG pollution 15 times greater than Developing World’s “: .  .


    Former UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser  Professor David King, director at Oxford University‘s Smith School of Enterprise and Environment., says that we must return to an Indian level (see: Michael Szabo, “Cut CO2 to India’s level, top scientist urges”, Reuters, 28 May 2008: ).


    Unfortunately the latest science says that we must urgently return the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from the present dangerous and damaging 390 parts per million (ppm) to a safe and sustainable level of about 300-350 ppm (for detailed and documented quotations see “ return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm””:—return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm  ) – and  we need NEGATIVE carbon footprints to achieve this.


    Dion_Milok is also correct in saying that carbon trading is a symptom of inaction. The Labor CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) is simply a lie – simple arithmetic calculations based on authoritative data tell us that Labor policy under the CPRS means that Australia’s Domestic and Exported GHG pollution will INCREASE to 173% of the 2000 value by 2050 (see Dr Gideon Polya “Climate justice & climate injustice: Australia wants a 2020 per capita GHG pollution 15 times greater than Developing World’s “: ).


    Indeed, the latest Labor-Liberal compromise CPRS version agricultural GHG pollution is permanently excluded and hence Australia is committed to more than 50% of current GHG pollution FOREVER – dog-in-the-manger climate racism because, for example, Australia’s per capita (including carbon exports) is already 60 times greater than that of Bangladesh.


    Top climate scientists and climate economists demand a revenue-neutral carbon tax rather than fraudulent, manipulative and ineffective  cap-and-trade ETS schemes (see “Top science & economics experts: Carbon Tax needed and NOT Cap-and-Trade Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)”: ).


    In short, what we need (and what is technologically possible) is rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning and agricultural GHG pollution driven by transparent, revenue-neutral carbon taxes as recommended by top climate experts coupled with  massive non-carbon energy, biochar generation, re-forestation and population control.