I’m in two minds what to think of David Miliband’s recent interest in Personal Carbon Allowances.
As I’ve explained previously on this blog, I like the economics behind carbon allowances, but feel it could be better administered simply by selling carbon allowances to the businesses, having them pass on the cost to the consumer, and having the government pass on the revenue raised in the form of a citizen’s income. I’m uneasy at the thought of advocating technocratic solutions in an era where that appears to be politicians’ solution to anything and with particular regard to this government and technology I wouldn’t trust them with my pocket calculator. They invariably fall for feature creep and buying expensive, over complicated systems that just don’t work (I met an old friend who is currently earning a small fortune touring GP surgeries to keep their databases up and running, which the government has installed in every GP’s office at enormous expense and even more incompetence). Who knows what extra features Blair will insist on adding to this card in an effort to keep any eye on how much carbon suspected terrorists are consuming?
To be fair, I don’t think Carbon Allowances are doomed to failure in the same way that I am absolutely convinced a national Road User Charging scheme will be (and the fact that New Labour are keener on the latter than the former I feel proves my point), but we should be careful to read the fine print before patting them on the back for catching up.
Fundamentally though, any system like this wouldn’t be up and running for another ten years. Ministers ought to be addressing what they plan to do in the here and now rather than get carried away with what we might think about introducing in the future.