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Personal Carbon Trading: Lessons from Complementary Currencies

Efforts to mitigate climate change through managing carbon emissions are prompting new and imaginative policy proposals. One untested proposal to issue tradable carbon emission allowances (carbon currency) to all UK citizens, with the aim of limiting and reducing carbon emissions, is known as Personal Carbon Trading (PCT). The lack of empirical experience with PCT hinders its development, and so this paper makes a conceptual link with the field of complementary currencies (CCs) to explore similarities and derive lessons for success to aid the development and implementation of PCT.

Gill Seyfang, April 2007

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Summary :

Experience with three models of CC is reviewed, to examine CCs with economic, social and environmental objectives (LETS, TimeBanks and NU Spaarpas), and a comparative analysis made with PCT. Five critical success factors emerge: policy context; social context and culture; technology and mechanisms; skills and capabilities; and harnessing collective action. Two key areas for future research and action into PCT are firstly, to identify the carbon literacy skills and culture which will be crucial to the success of PCT, and design a range of tools for boosting and measuring carbon literacy, and secondly to harness the energy and efforts of collective active citizenship to support the introduction and effective use of this new social infrastructure, the carbon currency. While much PCT literature approaches it as a utilitarian market system, this analysis suggests that PCT should instead be approached as a socially embedded collective endeavour, as ‘ecological citizenship’ rather than ‘ecological modernisation’.