A win for voluntary action

voluntary actionThe Australia Institute has spent a lot of time since 2009 explaining a simple, but often misunderstood feature of emissions trading; once a national target is set any efforts by individuals to reduce ‘their’ emissions simply frees up spare pollution permits for other polluters. Having identified the problem the Institute also proposed a solution in the form of a ‘cap and slice’ amendment which would ensure that any voluntary efforts by individuals or communities to reduce their emissions (for example installing solar panels for individuals, investing in a community wind farm or setting a state wide target such as the ACT’s 40 per cent emission reduction target) actually resulted in slicing the amount of pollution permits that would be issued rather than simply traded from one polluter to the next.

While the previous Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, was determined to deflect attention away from this characteristic of the previous Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) the latest plan negotiated between the government, the Greens and the Independents has finally acknowledged the need to empower individuals and communities to do their bit extra.

While the legislation is yet to be drafted according to the details released by the government yesterday:

“Voluntary action in addition to GreenPower and voluntary cancellation of units could also be recognised, on advice from the Climate Change Authority on whether a robust methodology can be developed to recognise additional voluntary action by households.”

This should mean that at as long as individuals and communities can accurately measure the benefits of their extra efforts then they really will be able to make a difference. It shouldn’t be hard, for example, for the ACT Government to document the additional abatement that will result from their ambitious territory-wide plan to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.

If you are involved in community campaigns to reduce emissions then you should contact both the federal Climate Change Minister and the appropriate local or state government bodies to let them know that you are keen to talk to them about developing the ‘robust methodology’ the government says it will require.

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