Beyond the Carbon Tax: Personal Carbon Trading and British Columbia's Climate Policy

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This thesis proposes a policy framing, communication and implementation model for personal carbon trading in British Columbia. Personal carbon trading is a scheme under which all individuals are allocated a number of free carbon allowances forming a personal carbon budget. Persons whose carbon emissions are lower than their carbon budgets can sell their surplus to persons who have exceeded theirs. As distributed allowances are reduced annually, consumers are encouraged to modify their behaviour and/or adopt technologies in order not to exceed their carbon budget. Personal carbon trading and carbon taxes are both carbon pricing instruments that, using different policy framings, aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Comparative experiments in the United Kingdom tested the hypothesis that, due to economic, social and psychological drivers, personal carbon trading would have greater potential to deliver emission reductions than taxation alone. This thesis explores that hypothesis in the context of British Columbia’s climate policy. It builds on an analysis of the BC carbon tax, international examples of carbon pricing instruments, and strategies for behavioural change such as social networking, loyalty management, apps development and gamification. Interviews were conducted with experts in financial services, energy efficiency, and the green economy, as well as with specialists in climate, health and taxation policy. They offered opinions on the potential of personal carbon trading to increase individuals’ participation in carbon emission reductions in BC. Their input, together with a review of the theoretical literature and practical case studies, informed the proposed design of a personal carbon trading system for BC. The thesis concludes with policy recommendations for increasing individual engagement, carbon budgeting and collective action by linking personal carbon trading to social, financial and health incentives.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Clapp, Alex
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