Climate change is the greatest challenge our species has ever confronted.  By setting a binding limit on carbon emissions putting the carbon content on all goods and services and sharing the emissions (carbon credits) over the entire population The Creative Alliance’s Carbon Credit initiative incentivises all of us to take responsibility for the impact of the choices we make on global warming.

The conversation that follows imagines a future shaped by more of us making the kinds of choices many thoughtful Kiwis are already making.

The Creative Alliance Carbon Credit Initiative

The small Pacific Nation was the first to establish targets for green- house gas emissions… and meet them.  Where few but the most altruistic and enlightened had previously engaged with the planet’s most urgent environmental crisis, the decision to establish the carbon content of all goods and services and set total allowable national carbon emissions and distribute them across the entire population found remarkable but not entirely surprising levels of support in a country that had established a reputation for fairness over more than a hundred years.

The early targets were only a few percentage points below previous emissions but since emissions had grown year on year and shown no sign of abating, the rest of the world applauded the audacity of the scheme.  Most had more than enough credits to meet their needs and quickly discovered that there was a market for spare credits among those with more demanding lifestyles.  Even those who cared little about climate change or the state of the planet discovered that by checking the carbon content of their purchases and living and shopping more thoughtfully they were able to cash in on healthy surpluses… or save them for more demanding purchases and experiences in future.  There was no price or penalty for those who stayed within their quota. 

Businesses were permitted to emit whatever they had emitted the previous year less the targeted reduction, based initially on their energy purchases in previous years.  If they hoped to grow their businesses, growth had to be carbon neutral or they could purchase surplus quota from other businesses, but they quickly discovered that personal carbon quotas had changed their customer’s shopping habits and manufacturers quickly developed products that enabled folk to live within their quota or accumulate credits. 

Carbon credits made remarkable inroads into reducing poverty levels as families used income made selling surplus credits to balance previously overstretched budgets.  The credits were like a guaranteed minimum income costing Government almost nothing with surpluses bought and paid for by those with more demanding lifestyles.

Information and communications industries quickly devised systems and templates for establishing the carbon content of products and providing carbon credit deductions and balances to customers with each purchase. 

Energy efficiency and carbon neutrality mattered. Carbon credits rapidly became a major determinant of people’s lifestyles and purchasing choices.  While extreme wealth still opened up choices to the extremely wealthy, the limits on carbon meant that businesses and individuals, rich and poor alike soon recognised the need to live thoughtfully and were rewarded for choosing wisely. 

People were incentivised to think about where, how… and how often they travelled, vehicle fleets downsized and electric vehicles, public transport, car pooling and walking and cycling became transport modes of choice for many journeys.  Solar energy arrays and all forms of carbon neutral energy generation were given a new impetus.

Carbon quotas became a major factor in curbing urban sprawl.  The urban village initiative led to the reconfiguring of many existing homes, the intensification of existing neighbourhoods and the introduction of new goods, services and employment opportunities into suburbia.  Inner city living and working from home burgeoned, as people chose to live closer to the places they worked played and went to school.