Carbon Accounts: The “credit card” that could save the planet?

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The Issue

The 2015 Paris Agreement set an aim for all of the world’s countries to cap a global rise in temperature to 1.5-2°C above pre-industrial levels, which is believed would be enough to stave off the worst effects of man-made climate change.

The obvious way to achieve this is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy – which is gradually becoming less expensive to provide – and making big changes to agricultural production. There are also other, more radical, possibilities such as giving every individual a personal carbon account which would “ration” how much greenhouse gas emissions a person can produce in a year.

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Recognises the need to tackle global warming and support the Paris Agreement by cutting carbon emissions in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.
  • Notes that the sustainable development principle was embedded in the Assembly by the Government of Wales Act 1998.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to commission further research into a personal carbon accounts pilot scheme in Wales.

Key Points

Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)
For (the motion): Individuals should think about their carbon use

  • There’s little discussion on personal/individual responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Personal carbon accounts would act as a form of personal carbon trading where “credits” are transferred via a carbon credit card for every action that uses carbon. The government would give everyone a personal carbon allowance for a set time.
  • You would be able to “sell” carbon you don’t use (or buy more), providing a financial incentive; 58% of households in Wales use less than the mean average carbon and would stand to benefit and address fuel poverty.

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central)
For: Food contribution to greenhouse gas emissions would be addressed

  • It would make people think about carbon use with regard diets and where their food comes from; dairy, meat and eggs produce more greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Simple measures like eating chicken instead of beef can cut emissions by a quarter.

Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales)
Mixed views: Tackling air pollution is fine, but anti-global warming measures are costly

  • It would be an important measure in improving air quality.
  • Anti-global warming measures are pushing up the price of energy for the poorest in society; carbon dioxide “isn’t a poison gas”.

Welsh Government Response

Environment & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)

  • Wales isn’t a party to the Paris Agreement, but actions at a state and sub-national level can make a big impact.
  • Welsh Government wants a carbon-neutral public sector by 2030.
  • Welsh Government will also set national “carbon budgets” and sees personal carbon accounts as one way of raising awareness of individual actions.
  • It’s “unlikely at the moment” that Wales has the power to introduce personal carbon accounts.


The motion was approved unanimously.

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