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The Case for Change

Climate science provides the quantity of CO2 emissions allowable under various emissions scenarios. The dramatic crossroads for humanity as outlined by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2022 report offers two ways forward: without concerted, rapid and unprecedented efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, the effects of climate change will likely cause massive loss of life, property, and nature. Doing nothing but rely on technological developments to bring about the obsolescence of fossil fuels is a policy that forecasting scenarios show cannot keep global warming below 3.0°C. This will bring global economic recessions along with damage and adaptation costs in the order of trillions of US dollars. This may induce governments to shut down the fossil fuel industry in short order to limit further losses, regardless of the drastic, disorganised impact on the economy.

The Paris Agreement was passed unanimously. That in itself was a feat of international diplomacy. However the Nationally Determined Contributions are not enforceable[1]. The 1.5°C limit to global warming imagined in the agreement is looking increasingly unachievable. The Climate Action Tracker[2] currently shows most monitored countries have not made sufficient commitments in their NDCs to be compatible with the agreement.

The Policy Concept



The UK Committee on Climate Change produced an extensive and wide-ranging document[3] outlining a policy path to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and immediately realised 2 problems: were their recommendations plausible[4] and are they even the best choice?[5]

Already academic policy analysts predict that governments will be unable to rise to the challenge without fundamental organisational restructuring[6]. This policy would allow decision-makers to focus on how much carbon emissions to allow, rather than how to implement those emissions cuts.


The concept of a carbon allowance is similar to rationing, which is categorised by economists as a fundamentally progressive fiscal policy - in other words, it is fair. Studies looking at rationing in the 1940s and 1950s show this. The quantity of carbon tokens in the allowance should be allocated on a per capita basis to citizens.

In this system, the carbon allowance would be paid regularly via a personal carbon account. Children and teenagers would receive a percentage of the adult quota. Governments would withhold a certain percentage of citizens' allowance like a tax, to pay the carbon costs of running public services.

To reduce CO2 emissions to zero, the first allowance period would begin by allocating enough carbon tokens to cover society’s existing emissions. At the individual level, this would only impact those with an above-average carbon footprint. The allocation would then be steadily reduced over time. Reduction might need to be stepped up in circumstances of accelerating climatic instability, or the allowance might temporarily increase to stave off exceptional economic damage, but always with the additional guarantee that due to supply restrictions, reduction targets will be met.

To prevent anybody being unfairly affected by the system, the government would hold back a percentage of everybody’s carbon allowance. This can be used to supplement those in extra need of carbon tokens through no fault of their own.

If introduced, every citizen and every business would have to become adept at handling their carbon tokens in the same way as money. it allows individual citizens to make their own decisions on where to make savings. Few of us would be forced to cut down in all areas of consumption, most could make carbon savings where convenient for our lifestyle. No one would be imposing decisions on our behalf.


Business ultimately plays by a set of rules defined in law and is typically only concerned only with profit and loss generated by its actions within that context. For business, UCC is relatively basic. It makes going green part of the rules.

Under the system, businesses would charge customers carbon tokens, as well as money, for all products and services, which it would carefully manage to cover all of its own carbon expenditure.

Every product or service that is bought and sold would be subject to the system: every vendor, every merchant, every shopkeeper, every business person who sells anything must put the carbon price on their product or service next to the cash price, even if it is truly a zero emissions product. It provides a practical solution for difficult industry sectors like aviation, shipping, inbuilt or imported emissions, public services or the military.

The businesses use their carbon token income to pay for the goods and services they use in their supply chain. This method of pricing the carbon in everything in the supply chain goes back through the supply chain until the end source is reached, with the carbon producers (the oil/gas/coal extraction companies).

Carbon tokens would flow via every business transaction through the supply chain from the end-carbon-consumer (citizen) to the original carbon producer. So they would flow through the economy as a second parallel currency, affecting every product or service which exists and is for sale, from televisions to train tickets, and requiring two figures on the price tag – a price in local currency ($, £, €, ¥ etc) and a carbon price in tokens.

From the technological perspective, business would be compelled to introduce accounting software to account for carbon token income and expenditure. Key to the system and how it generates the carbon price for products and services is the rule that businesses, commerce and industry do not receive any carbon tokens as an allowance: the citizens create the market for the products and services, and their willingness or not to pay any given carbon price is the ultimate feedback in the process.

With modern supply chains, a product or service’s carbon price is kept up to date by the businesses involved, from manufacture right through packaging, freight, and storage. The final carbon price to the end consumer is simply the accumulation of carbon token costs that were added on and demanded in payment at each step in the supply chain. This establishes a direct link between the volume of carbon tokens allocated by the central carbon authority and the final CO2 emissions produced in the economy in any one period.

One significant advantage of carbon tokens is the continual dynamic update of the UCC price charged for each product or service as business becomes more carbon-neutral. The price tag would display exactly how much CO2 in total was generated in the manufacture and supply of the product. It would be reduced by the vendors to reflect environmental improvements as they take place. This real-time ‘green flag’ lends a dynamism to the decarbonisation process on a scale impossible to achieve by any bureaucratic mandates or carbon tax scheme.

Such a scheme would immediately push businesses to seek out the lowest emission options in their supply chain, so that their offerings have the lowest carbon price they can manage and the best chances against the competition. Products or services which currently sell at a high price due to their low CO2 emissions, high sustainability or eco-friendliness will become much more attractive due to their low carbon price.

Fossil Fuel Industry

The other key actors in the system are the carbon producers - the oil, gas and coal suppliers. Supply-side control of fossil fuel extraction rates is the sole policy that directly limits carbon supply and guarantees decarbonisation.

Every gas or oil well and coal mine operation would be subject to upstream metering by the carbon authority to measure the quantity of fossil fuels extracted, for audit and payment of carbon token income.

The carbon producers would charge carbon tokens on their fossil fuel sales, weight for weight in tonnes, kilos and grammes of carbon, which is how the carbon tokens are denominated. The corporate accounts would be subject to audit by this central carbon authority. All carbon extracted – gas, oil, coal – would require surrender of the equivalent carbon tokens.

Compliance in the whole carbon currency system would take place at the carbon producers, who become the lynchpin for policing of fossil fuel extraction and thus CO2 emissions. It is the extraction of fossil fuels that is monitored and audited rather than their sale, because the fossil fuel producers in many cases use their own products to power their operations, or even allow their escape, e.g. methane leaks or flaring.

Downstream companies in the petrochemical industry and beyond in wider industry which do not extract fossil fuels would, by definition of the system, not be subject to metering or payment of carbon tokens to the carbon authority.

The Carbon Market

The ability to purchase extra carbon tokens from citizens or businesses would minimise problems when adaptation is slow or insufficient for whatever reason.

Wealthy citizens could buy extra carbon tokens to subsidise their carbon-heavy choices, but only what other people are selling, and that will decrease regularly as the carbon allowances are steadily reduced. Such a market for tokens is not a loophole that some observers might think prevents actual CO2 emissions reduction from taking place, because firstly, not allowing the sale of tokens could encourage people who would otherwise be carbon-conscious to use up all their un-tradeable allowance on cheap high-carbon products. Secondly, the market for buying and selling carbon tokens represents a safety mechanism in the system that prevents people or businesses falling off a carbon “cliff edge” if they run out of tokens.


The carbon allowance policy can be implemented unilaterally by any nation, not requiring unanimous approval from hundreds of nations at the United Nations.

The roll-out could be implemented by central banks using digital currency frameworks – unilaterally by nation or within trading blocs by the creation of carbon borders with non-implementing trading partners, where customs authorities act as proxy and impose the carbon price on the domestic importers at the border. It could also be negotiated multilaterally with agreements on national carbon allowances via the existing UNFCCC-compliant GCI Contraction and Convergence treaty model.

The Central Carbon Authority

A central carbon authority would be established, similar in function to a central bank, to administer monetary control of the carbon currency. It would oversee the allocation of carbon allowances to citizens.

It would run the carbon market where citizens and business come to sell surplus tokens or obtain extra requirement.

It would also process the payment, audit and verification of carbon tokens from the carbon producers.

Central banks across the globe are already putting in place the framework for an international digital reserve currency. This could be duplicated for the purposes of carbon allowances.

Carbon tokens would not expire, so the carbon authority would also monitor, manage and report on the carbon currency supply - the quantity of carbon tokens held by citizens and businesses. This information would feed back into the decision-making process for calculating the optimal quantity of tokens to allocate for each period.

The carbon authority would also mandate a negative interest rate on all carbon accounts to discourage stockpiling.

National Implementation

Any nation or trading bloc could immediately implement the policy, where the customs authority sets up a proxy at the trading border to impose the carbon price required on incoming goods (which is paid by the importer). A nation's national borders and customs agency would act as proxy for importers of foreign goods and services, collecting the required carbon tokens on imported goods from the buyers.

Other nations could join with the first nation at any point to form a larger trading block.

International Implementation

The ultimate goal and the most effective situation would be the implementation of the policy across the global economy. This would provide society with the best chances of meeting the growing challenges that climate change represents.

One solution to provide an international basis for carbon allocation would be the Global Commons Initiative's Contraction and Convergence Framework[7]. This is the essence of decades of international climate diplomacy, as used by UNFCCC, UK Government, the Brazilian, Russian, Indian, and Chinese delegations and as a basis for proposals by various organisations and political parties ever since[8].

On an international scale ultimately all citizens from all nations would receive the same individual allowance of carbon tokens. This would start differently for different countries yet end up the same by global agreement, using a UN-brokered convention based on the Contraction and Convergence system.

The chart below shows, at the top, the annual rates of carbon emissions allocated (tonnes carbon per capita per country), and below, in gigatonnes of carbon total per country (from 2000).

It illustrates how national allocations can be negotiated to the satisfaction of all countries by commencing at different per capita levels and then converging at an agreed point before contracting.


Cost of Implementation

Compared to the “free” option of doing nothing or “business as usual”, the carbon allowance policy has a large, up-front cost with manageable, contained, on-going running costs similar to VAT or German MwSt.

Compared to carbon tax policies, the large up-front cost comes as business, government and citizens prepare for its introduction. Studies in 2008 in the UK and more recent studies on projects such a road traffic in Kenya and local transport in Finland show that costs are not prohibitive.

But taxes, trading schemes, legislative bans or subsidy programs have significant running costs to maintain the level of carbon policymaking that rationing would make redundant:

  • establishing what citizens and industry have to stop doing
  • democratically agreeing on it
  • legislating for it
  • implementing the laws
  • monitoring the effects
  • constantly strengthening the laws in the face of political opposition

And all this would be repeated for each individual policy for every nation in the world.

So the carbon tax alternatives are initially cheaper, but they have higher legislative costs as governments manage decarbonisation, legislating year after year to keep up with economic and technological developments and unforeseen issues. The longer it lasts, the more likely it is that the carbon allowance policy turns out cheaper.

The costs to the state and increase in taxes required to implement the system would be small in comparison to the billions proposed for climate-related subsidies and government spending programmes.


No requirement for carbon labelling laws: the carbon price of every item creates itself via cumulative addition up the supply chain. The system results in a dynamic, responsive carbon price for everything with no requirement for government to research and label everything with a fixed, statutory carbon price.

Transparency in commerce: people and green businesses currently base their consumer choices on information that is often not on the label, is incomplete, or worse, is misleading or purposefully suppressed. Very few things have the same carbon transparency as buying a tank of fuel to drive somewhere. There are unexpected inputs, hidden subsidies and incalculable interactions which make some things' actual carbon footprint differ radically from the expected. This system's cumulative supply chain carbon price irons out these issues and distributes the effort of setting the carbon price to the place where it is most easily done - by the people creating the product or delivering the service.

Transparency in the fossil fuel industry: the metering of fossil fuel extraction at source gives a direct measure of the carbon entering the economy and the CO2 emissions produced. Progress would be clear to all. The significance of government or central carbon bank decision-making within the system would also be readily understood.

Direct control over fossil fuel supply: because there is a one-to-one relationship between carbon tokens and the all the oil, gas or coal that fossil fuel producers are permitted to extract from the ground, the government's control over how much fossil fuel is produced and how much CO2 is emitted is direct, unlike the situation with carbon tax, where the impact on CO2 emissions is dependent on the economy's reaction to the carbon tax.

Driver of green innovation: progress towards a zero emissions economy in any circumstances will only occur at a fast enough pace if inventiveness and innovation can be harnessed to create new methods and processes. Because every individual will develop a solid carbon literacy through their everyday use of their own personal carbon account, people will bring this into their work and drive the economy's adaptation to the system from the inside out. Compare this with the impact of carbon taxes: worldwide implementation of carbon taxes in 2020 covered only 16% of the economy, leaving the "carbon price gap" standing at 84%[9]. The coverage of the proposed carbon currency system would be practically 100%. So the inherent "price signal" for carbon under the carbon currency system would be 5 times stronger than from carbon taxes as it stands. The stronger impact would accelerate business adaptation and innovation.

Cross-border trade: any nation or trading bloc using this system instructs its customs authority to set up a proxy at the border to impose an estimated carbon price on incoming goods, which is paid by the importer.

Facilitation and promotion of carbon drawdown: the government has a national budget for carbon allowances which it uses to allocate every citizen's allowance. It can pay in carbon tokens from this budget for atmospheric CO2 removal, e.g. in soils via sustainable farming practices, rewilding, the protection of ocean carbon sinks or any kind of mechanical carbon drawdown. Recipients would be able to sell the carbon tokens they earn at the going rate. The higher the carbon token price, the more it would promote carbon drawdown.

Introduction of system is no cause for alarm: the introductory level of carbon tokens allocated for the personal allowance would be adequate to bring about familiarity with the carbon currency without entailing an immediate change in the average person's lifestyle choices. Only the most profligate carbon emitters would actually find themselves restricted during the first years of the system's implementation. This tends to be a small number of wealthy people who constitute only a tiny proportion of the electorate. Most would agree such people should rein in their carbon-intensive activities.

Long term impacts ameliorated by advances in technology: it is probable that the progress of green technologies in the future will reduce the required carbon tokens in many sectors, cushioning the impact on consumers when allowance reductions start to cause real impact

Comparison with other approaches

Carbon tax is always criticised for its unfairness because those with lower incomes generally end up paying proportionately more of their income for it, but carbon allowances are allocated equally per capita, and allow those on low incomes who have on average smaller carbon footprints to profit from selling their excess.

The worldwide implementation of carbon taxes and ETS schemes in 2020 covered only 16% of the economy, leaving the "carbon price gap" standing at 84%[9]. The coverage of the proposed carbon currency system would be practically 100%. So the inherent "price signal" for carbon under the carbon currency system would be 5 times stronger than from carbon taxes as it stands. The stronger impact would accelerate business adaptation and innovation.

It is also quite complex and difficult to construct a carbon pricing system and then to implement it using policies that can only implement partial coverage. Multiple issues occur, especially on a political level e.g. in British Columbia, Canada[10][11], in the EU[12].

Other attempts to control society's widespread and deeply rooted CO2 emissions via the creation of a multitude of decarbonisation mandates in government have also not had the desired effect. The problem with regulation-based policies is the extended time horizons associated with such policies. The EU in 2020 displayed a particularly egregious example of this. The implementation of the 'EU Green New Deal' will only take force 10 years down the line in 2030 and it does not allow for greater ambition until 2035.[13]

The carbon allowances policy has an advantage over every other kind of carbon pricing policy, because other policies attempt to guess the “right” price for carbon, without knowing in advance how great its impact will be, because they are not comprehensively applied to all sources of CO2 emissions and they suffer from variations in the sensitivity of supply and demand. We roughly know the quantity of CO2 emissions we can allow for various global warming scenarios, so it is more robust approach to use that figure to set a per capita allowance.

Many climate policy discussions would be solved by this policy's broad coverage. It's simpler, more efficient and more direct to control the quantity of carbon entering the economy than the carbon price, which is fundamentally a difficult policy making exercise, prone to failure and political intervention. They rely on inclusions and exclusions on a sector by sector basis and variation in carbon accounting practices dependent on national law. Carbon allowances on the other hand would provide comprehensive coverage of the economy and a comparatively small set of economic indicators, influences and unknowns. This would provide the backdrop for a reliable investment framework that gives a clear pathway for innovation towards carbon neutrality.

Shipping illustrates a typical problem businesses face. The International Maritime Organisation brokered a international agreement that shipping fuel must be used more efficiently by 2020, but despite 20 years preparation, it is on the verge of failure because of disagreement over who bears responsibility in the industry[14]. The carbon allowances policy would enable an individual nation to include shipping under its umbrella via the customs proxy mechanism described above to solve international responsibility issue, and the fuel costs would carry the carbon costs, solving the ownership issue.

Appendix 1: Also Known As

The system's original name “Total Carbon Rationing” contains the word “Total” because every product or service that is bought and sold is subject to the system: every vendor, every merchant, every shopkeeper, every business person who sells anything must put the carbon price on their product or service next to the usual price, even if it is truly a zero emissions product.

It was later given the title "Universal Carbon Credits".

In 2022, following professional advice, we developed a communications strategy that called for simpler vocabulary: hence it became the "carbon currency based on carbon allowances".

Appendix 2: Central carbon authority

By setting a CO2 emissions reduction goal and distributing the carbon allowances that achieve this reduction, a nation has a policy tool that acts as an economic tuning mechanism allowing the rate of CO2 emissions reduction to be balanced against any negative impacts it causes. The goal should be to keep reduction rates at the highest economically feasible level. Faced with deteriorating climatic conditions or sea level changes for example, or unexpected synergies appearing with the growth of the low carbon economy, adjusting the size of the next carbon allowances budget gives a straightforward lever to soft-pedal or step up decarbonisation.

Appendix 3: Practical example of carbon token usage in commerce

For simplicity’s sake, imagine that the UK has implemented the policy unilaterally. The UK carbon authority will then work in tandem with the customs authorities to impose the carbon token price on all goods and services coming in from other countries. Now say you want to buy a television, for instance. How do the carbon tokens fit into the commercial process?

  1. The UK carbon authority has allocated all citizens an equal amount of carbon tokens, reflecting absolute tonnes and kilos of carbon. When you choose a TV in a retail outlet, the price tag will show both the price in sterling and the price in tokens, and in all the preceding business transactions leading to the TV arriving in the shop, there will have been these joint costs – money and tokens.
  2. The TV is made from component parts, some originating in the UK, others from abroad. The plastic casing, in this example, was made in the UK so already has incurred a carbon cost which the case-maker will need to recoup when the TV manufacturer buys it. Making the case used a lot of energy and requires plastic, so the case manufacturer worked out the carbon cost in tokens by adding (a) the tokens paid to the energy provider, and (b) the tokens paid for the petrochemicals to make the plastic.
  3. The energy provider might be using gas or coal, wind or nuclear, but let’s say it’s North Sea gas from BP, so the energy provider had to pay BP the tokens per tonne of gas bought. BP is one end of this production chain, and will be paying the UK carbon authority carbon tokens representing a tonne of carbon for every tonne of carbon in the gas it pumps out of the North Sea.
  4. Other components of this TV have been imported from outside the UK, from countries not yet in the system – the flat screen, for example, has come from China. The UK customs officer has an estimate of how much carbon was emitted in the making of the flat screen, and levies this amount at the border. Delivery to the TV manufacturer only occurs on payment of the required tokens to the UK customs authority.
  5. The TV manufacturing business has now bought the component parts, paying the required tokens, and makes the television, using more energy.
  6. The final calculation for the TV manufacturer is: carbon price = ( tokens needed for parts + tokens paid for energy )
  7. All tokens expended must be recouped from its customer, the retailer.
  8. Now the retailer purchases the television from the manufacturer, paying the tokens required, and prices it for sale, slightly increasing the tokens demanded of the final customer because it has to keep its shop warm in winter, and pay to transport the televisions.
  9. Finally you, the customer, go to the retailer and choose the television, gauging the price as usual and also the carbon price in tokens, and paying both money and tokens in one transaction.
  10. So the four-step cumulative carbon price in tokens for the TV looks like this:
    • A for the energy costs, in tokens, for North Sea gas extracted by BP, paid first by the energy provider and then after the energy is generated, by the plastic case manufacturer
    • plus B for the added carbon costs of the imported screen and other component parts, paid for by the TV manufacturer
    • plus C for the energy costs of production, added by the TV manufacturer
    • and finally D for the extra energy costs of storage and transport added by the retailer.
  11. All four costs are eventually met by the customer’s token purchase price.
  12. Passing on the cost of carbon priced in tokens in this way makes the primary carbon producers (in this case BP) the ultimate recipients of tokens, and the key audit point – regular audits will be carried out by the carbon authority to assure compliance between the quantity of fossil fuels extracted from the ground and the tokens that they procure via their sales of those fuels.

Appendix 4: Methane control under the carbon allowances system

CH4 is a highly potent greenhouse gas, 28 times greater than CO2 over 100 years (or 84x over 20)[15]. Methane leakages from fossil fuel extraction, mining for minerals such as copper[16], farming of ruminant mammals, solid waste management and several other activities are problematic areas for emissions control policies due to the significant quantities of non-CO2 greenhouse gases that are emitted. In most cases though they are already well-regulated industries, so lending themselves to coverage by the carbon allowances system. This can be done by licensing the operation to emit greenhouse gases against purchase of a license, priced in carbon tokens according to the quantity to be emitted, calculated as C02e (CO2 equivalent).

Based on past mining or drilling operations and including geological data indicating potential methane leakage from oil or coal beds, average methane leakage at any extraction site could be calculated and the appropriate carbon price added to the final bill at the carbon producer's audit by the carbon authority.

Oil and gas wells and coal mines would be metered as described above not just for usable fossil fuels but also for leakage. Monitoring operations can be highly effective and led to the detection of the massive methane leaks from Exxon wells in Ohio[17] and from Texas[18]. Such monitoring is also carried out by satellite.

Methane emissions from solid waste management and composting could also be done this way. Remote sensing is already used in California as part of pollution control research.[19]

Methane emissions from livestock by a farmer with a dairy or beef herd would be required to pay license fees in carbon tokens per head of cattle.

Appendix 5: Preservation of natural carbon sinks and prospects for carbon drawdown

The implementation of the carbon allowances system could provide a carbon token-based income to the owners or guardians of every standing forest. The forest carbon sinks sequester about 15% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions[20], although that rate is falling. From the opposite perspective, deforestation for economic gain would have to be monitored and audited by a global carbon authority, which would then demand the equivalent carbon tokens from the entity carrying out the deforestation. The concept applies that all carbon usage and ensuing CO2 emissions in the economy must be paid for in carbon tokens.

The demand for biofuels would also be channelled into sustainable practices. Industrial biofuel agriculture[21] would need to budget for payment of carbon tokens for CO2 loss due to soil degradation. Large woodchip-fired power stations would pay in carbon tokens for woodchip from forestry operations, who would be subject to audit and payment to the carbon authority for the forest clearance. Future developments with current 2020 policies could otherwise lead to unchecked deforestation.[22][23]

The continued destruction of the globally significant carbon sinks, such as the rainforests of the Amazon, Borneo and the Congo, represent a large risk to any attempts to control CO2 emissions globally. The obvious culprit here is the palm oil industry with its extensive oil palm plantations, along with timber production, soya or beef farming forest clearance methods, and other drivers of deforestation by commercial interests. A global pact to implement the carbon allowances policy could create a global carbon budget for carbon tokens large enough to supply payments for carbon sinks as detailed above.

In parallel to the requirement for keeping forests standing, the carbon allowance policy offers a huge potential as a mechanism to pay for negative emissions. For instance, all deforested land could be reforested. As trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Reforestation projects can claim this weight of absorbed CO2 as carbon tokens from the carbon authority.

Obviously under this system, forest stewards of both intact primary forest and regrowing secondary forest would have to be subject to stringent control to the same degree as the gas/oil/coal carbon producers.

The forest condition and the amount of carbon absorbed (or lost through felling) would be monitored by remote sensing in the same way that forests are currently monitored.[24][25]

Appendix 6: More robust future for the carbon offsetting industry and the voluntary carbon markets

The harsh reality of CO2 emissions and prospects for their reduction means any realistic plan must include removing CO2 from the atmosphere, or global warming will overshoot 1.5°C.[26]

This chart displays the Global Carbon Budget. It shows annual global CO2 emissions on the Y axis in gigatonnes. In 2019 when created, the thick black curve has risen every year on the X axis. The cumulative effect of all emissions to date has resulted in a global temperature rise of 1°C above pre-industrial levels.

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement between all nations targets a 1.5°C limit to global warming, with initial commitments to keep the temperature rise "well below 2°C".

According to the latest climate science, to achieve a limit of 1.5°C warming, society must restrict further CO2 emissions to less than 420 gigatonnes. The downward-arcing black line on the chart displays how annual emissions must decline if we adhere to the 420 gigatonne total. In other words, with current emissions at 42 gigatonnes per year, if we carried on for another 10 years, we would then need to completely stop all emissions or global warming would exceed 1.5°C.



As the chart text states, such sudden emissions reduction is practically impossible. The only way to keep the total extra anthropogenic CO2 added to the atmosphere below 420 Gigatonnes from 2020 is to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere - "negative emissions", in the appropriate huge quantities.

Using its ability to take carbon tokens from its national carbon budget as described above, the central carbon bank would promote “negative emissions” by awarding tokens to people or businesses capturing CO2, e.g. growing trees or building futuristic Saharan solar power stations that generate power to turn CO2 from the atmosphere back into carbon[27] or salt crystal[28] or methanol and oxygen[29]. This branch of industry is no longer in its infancy as summarised by Carbon Brief in their report "10 Ways Negative Emissions could slow Climate Change"[30] but requires the investment to scale up.

However as of 2020 the whole industry is not without controversy in the way that its CO2 drawdown is certified. In fact it is difficult to draw the line between this and the carbon offsetting industry. It is in these sectors that the rigour and robustness in validation and payments by a centralised carbon authority would be transformational.

Not only would it promote research and investment into reforestation and carbon sequestration, but because the central carbon authority awards tokens from the central carbon budget, it circumvents the problem of who should pay for it. The main issue would be monitoring land use and other carbon drawdown mechanisms, and administering claims.


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  13. Abnett, K.: Environment groups say EU's planned climate law means a lost decade Reuters (2020)
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  25. Almeida D. et al, 2019: Monitoring the structure of forest restoration plantations with a drone-lidar system (International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation)
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  27. Cockburn, H. 2019: Scientists turn CO2 ‘back into coal’ in breakthrough carbon capture experiment (Independent UK)
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  29. Weston, P. 2019: Scientists create ‘artificial leaf’ that sucks in carbon dioxide and makes fuel (Independent UK)
  30. Pierce, R. 2020: Explainer: 10 ways negative emissions could slow climate change (Carbon Brief)