Carbon emissions are a huge global issue that contribute to climate change. The idea of limiting or offsetting carbon emissions has been discussed and, occasionally, implemented in different ways. The global carbon emissions are still growing each year, though, which has caused many people to question the current practices. This is where carbon credits come in.
Carbon credits essentially put a price on carbon in our atmosphere. One carbon credit or permit allows a company to emit the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon into the atmosphere.
In a cap and trade carbon credit system, each country would decide on a cap, or carbon emission limit. This country’s government would then distribute a certain amount of carbon credits to all of its companies, careful to stay within the country’s overall cap.
More sustainable companies will not need all their credits, so they can sell their credits to other companies who produce more carbon emissions, therefore making a profit from emitting less carbon. This system not only provides companies with an incentive to emit less carbon, but also enables the possibility of gradually decreasing the cap and further limiting carbon emissions over time.
This is not the only method of attempting to put a price on carbon and lessen its effects.
There are many companies that are presently encouraging citizens to buy an offset to their carbon footprint, or the carbon that is emitted from usage of cars, planes, shipping, manufactured goods, wood burning, and more. The money paid for these offsets then goes towards sustainable energy or carbon offsetting efforts such as wind turbines or planting trees.
This method is not as effective, though, because it is a completely voluntary system.
Assistant Professor of Economics and Business Dr. William Haden-Chomphosy said, “I think that voluntary carbon credits will not do what we need them to do. It’s just that there will always be an incentive to avoid paying that cost. To me, it comes down to whether or not we’re forcing people to do this. I think it is something that absolutely has to be done.”
The biggest obstacle carbon credits face is governmental implementation. For the system to be effective, uniform and regulated, it needs to be implemented through the government of each country. The problem is, many governments, such as the Republican-led U.S., do not intend on taking action against climate change.
Director of International Programs and Associate Professor of Politics Dr. Peter Gess said, “Our current administration does not put much stock in human activity creating or amplifying climate change. That’s a problem right there. That’s a problem for those people who believe we need to do something. Oil fuels our economy. If we change that, there’s going to be disruption, and avoiding that disruption is really important to some politicians. So political will, with, sort of, economic concerns is the resistant.”
The 2020 elections are this November, and there is potential for governmental support of carbon credits with the potential election of a Democratic president.
Gess said, “If a Democrat is elected to the president, no matter who it is, there’s gonna be a push for climate action. That only happens if there’s also public buy in, public will. So, it’s the older generation that is not as worried about it… and is not willing to make some of those big changes. “But, [the younger] generation—college age, people in their twenties—overwhelmingly think something needs to happen. There’s public will; we need that to match the political will,” Gess said.
A cap and trade carbon credit system is possible, as long as there is governmental and public support. Climate change needs to be slowed, and carbon credits can be a large part of the solution.