Rationing Returns: A Solution to Global Warming?

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DatePublished - 14 Mar 2007
PublisherHistory and Policy
Place of PublicationLondon
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameHistory and Policy Papers
PublisherHistory and Policy
No.54

Abstract

1) Politicians from all parties acknowledge the need to reduce consumption of energy from fossil fuels if carbon emissions are to be cut.

2) There are two policy instruments available to politicians: carbon taxes and carbon rationing.

3) Carbon taxes are currently the frontrunner, although doubts have been expressed about their efficacy and equity.

4) Advocates of carbon rationing can strengthen their case by revisiting the history of rationing during the 1940s and 1950s.

5) In 1939 and 1940 the government rejected proposals to rely upon increased taxation to cut consumption because the impact of tax rises would be slow and inequitable.

6) The government introduced rationing instead, as it was the best way to cut consumption quickly and ensure that reduced supplies were shared out equitably.

7) Policymakers rejected tradable rations, a feature of current carbon rationing proposals, fearing that it would undermine the moral basis of rationing, encourage coupon fraud and feed inflation, thereby negating the socially-progressive aspects of tradable rations.

8) The public accepted that rationing was a temporary but necessary measure due to persuasive economic arguments, underlying trust in central government, and positive memories of rationing during the First World War.

9) To introduce a successful carbon rationing scheme, the experience of the Second World War indicates that the government must convince the public that rationing levels are fair; that the system is administered transparently and fairly; and that evaders are few in number, likely to be detected and liable to stiff penalties if found guilty.

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