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Buy yourself a tonne of CO2 emissions
September 19, 2008 4:08 AM   Subscribe

sandbag.org.uk is a not-for-profit website that allows members to buy up surplus "permits to pollute" that form the currency of the European Union's emissions trading scheme (or EU ETSs). Members can then "retire" them so that they cannot continue to be traded between the industrial polluters - cement, steel and car manufacturers etc - forced by EU regulation to operate within the system. "I suppose it's a bit like burning money in front of someone so they can't spend it on something bad," says the founder, Bryony Worthington, to the Guardian.

Their site also has a map where you can see the locations of the UK's biggest carbon emitters and their annual allowances.

A tonne of carbon is priced at about €25 or £20 or $35.
posted by lucia__is__dada (52 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder, is it better value to spend $35 on buying a tonne of carbon, or to spend $35 planting some trees?
posted by Jimbob at 4:13 AM on September 19, 2008


Probably the tree. If enough people buy up the permits, they'll just issue more so the emitters have "enough".
posted by DU at 4:17 AM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I suppose it's a bit like burning money in front of someone so they can't spend it on something bad."

Considering that the subject is carbon credits, buring money is a poor analogy.
posted by three blind mice at 4:19 AM on September 19, 2008


Any of you young sociologists or anthropologists out there: This is a new religion being created before your eyes. It's like seeing the birth of a volcano or some great gyre out on the ocean. How did the Abrahamic religions with all their bizarre rules, arcane regulations, strange rituals, and abstract exchanges of pleasure for repentance, guilt for grace, and sacrifice for good fortune coalesce out of the murk of human consciousness to be rigid forms in men's minds? Probably something like we're seeing here. A new Leviticus is being written. A new Deuteronomy. One hopes that this religion is stifled in its cradle, because our old familiar religions, though they have been bad enough in their time, have settled into a comparatively harmless senility. But this one will have to go through all the fierce stages, including its inquisition and killing phases, and many will suffer. Behold as these innate urges as old as the oldest priestly caste of Ur seek new external forms.
posted by Faze at 4:23 AM on September 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


DU - I'm not sure that is possible under the terms of the Kyoto Treaty. I know it's not technically possible to "unretire" these units without rewriting the whole trading system.

Enforcement was always going to be the sticking point for this scheme, as with all other UN activities. What happens when one participant breaks the rules is the real test.
posted by fullerine at 4:31 AM on September 19, 2008


I'm going to buy my very own tonne of CO2 and name it Bjorn.

DU: That's addressed in the FAQ.
posted by vacapinta at 4:37 AM on September 19, 2008


I wonder, is it better value to spend $35 on buying a tonne of carbon, or to spend $35 planting some trees?

It's a different concept. If you buy a permit you're reducing pollution and if you plant trees you're offsetting it.

But still:
posted by lucia__is__dada at 4:41 AM on September 19, 2008




I'm not sure that is possible under the terms of the Kyoto Treaty

My cynicism circuits are probably overloaded by living in the US, but since when has illegality been a barrier to Big Business getting what it wants? *cough*FISA*cough*

Oh but I see from the FAQ that I'd actually be buying from the polluter. I guess that does make it a little better. Somehow. (I'm not being sarcastic, but it's too early to figure out the economics here.)
posted by DU at 4:45 AM on September 19, 2008


that's some polished prose there, Faze, but what on earth are you on about?
posted by jammy at 5:01 AM on September 19, 2008


vacapinta, I was thinking the same thing, but with Nicolas Sarkozy.
posted by mystyk at 5:24 AM on September 19, 2008


Any of you young sociologists or anthropologists out there: This is a new religion being created before your eyes.

Did you mean to post this in the Sarah Palin thread? Or the Douglas Adams thread?
posted by randomination at 5:41 AM on September 19, 2008


that's some polished prose there, Faze, but what on earth are you on about?

That while busybody environmentalism might wrap itself in the cloth of science, at its core it's more about evangelical righteousness (religion), and about affectation at the level most people interact with it (marketing).

Douchebaggery.
posted by blasdelf at 5:42 AM on September 19, 2008


When you buy a permit, do you take control of it or does the permit actually stay in the hands of sandbag? Could you buy a permit now and declare yourself green, but later, when the permit is worth more, sell it to a polluter at a profit, light a big cigar, and cackle evilly?
posted by pracowity at 5:52 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I bought my child twenty permits to pollute for his birthday. He still wants a Nintendo.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:54 AM on September 19, 2008


cackle evilly?

This wouldn't be quite as evil as it sounds. The polluter still needs to pay more to pollute than they did before. But presumably they are also capable to predicting how much they'll need and this market will be small.
posted by DU at 5:55 AM on September 19, 2008


You got to fight pay
For your right
To paaaaaaaar-tay poooooooo-lute!!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on September 19, 2008


Or, to keep others from polluting, as the case may be.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on September 19, 2008


I'm probably wrong on my thinking here (Friday, tired).

Though the cost comparison is one way of looking at it, surely buying a permit takes care of a tonne of carbon now – this year, as opposed to, say, over the 50–100 year life cycle of a tree.

Further, although there may be suspicions that more permits will be created, there's also no guarantee that your tree won't get prematurely logged as circumstances change.
posted by mandal at 6:24 AM on September 19, 2008


I'll take the environmentalist cult over market fundamentalism any day.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:29 AM on September 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I thought about doing this the last time carbon credits came up on metafilter... based on the technically-not-dry states in the US that give out liquor licences to local churches who then sit on them. But like DU, I figured if I was successful at gaming the system, they'd change the rules. I really need to get off my backside and do something with my bright ideas occasionally.
posted by Leon at 6:32 AM on September 19, 2008


Quick and not-very-thorough Google search indicates a mature tree absorbs about 0.02 tonnes of carbon a year, so to get the same effect as removing 1 tonne of carbon per year (which I think is what the carbon credits do?), you would have to plant 50 trees a year.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:34 AM on September 19, 2008


That while busybody environmentalism might wrap itself in the cloth of science, at its core it's more about evangelical righteousness (religion), and about affectation at the level most people interact with it (marketing).

That while hands-off conservatism might wrap itself in the cloth of laissez-faire, at its core it's more about greed (the true conservative religion) and about affection at the level most people interact with it (the exercise of complete and total denial of reality.)

If one accepts the well-settled science that man-made activity is causing climate change, then a real conservative should be all over Kyoto as the most "market based" solution which has yet been proposed.

Instead today's "conservatives" simply deny the science and mock anyone who disagrees with them.

It is no wonder that the anti-intellectual party has become a party full of poorly educated, uncurious, anti-intellectuals.
posted by three blind mice at 6:38 AM on September 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Bravo, Faze, for writing an epic without one single concrete fact.
posted by natteringnabob at 6:57 AM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


This seems to be pretty similar to TerraPass
posted by brokengoose at 7:03 AM on September 19, 2008


...without one single concrete fact.

Ahh, concrete facts schmoncrete facts. The man was on an inspired flight of fancy. Facts are a dime a dozen, they're way overrated, but what Faze wrote above is... well, some kind of oracular art. Even if he's talking out of his ass, it's still oracular art. You dig?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:06 AM on September 19, 2008


I will personally create an extra ton of carbon for each of these that are purchased.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:11 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This sounds suspiciously like an evil master plan to cripple the world's industries and force them to kneel before their new master to beg for salvation. Look at their directors' names: Byrony Worthington, Barbara Le Fleming and Louise Crow. These are clearly super villain secret identities-- no one group has names that stupid.
posted by stavrogin at 7:12 AM on September 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Bravo, Faze, for writing an epic without one single concrete fact.

As Hegel once said, so much the worse for the facts.
posted by daniel_charms at 7:22 AM on September 19, 2008


This seems to be pretty similar to TerraPass

TerraPass does sell carbon offsets, but it also seems to be heavy on selling "ecological" gadgets, and the gadget mentality is anti-ecological. You have to build, package, warehouse, ship, shelve, sell, shop for, and drive home a gadget, and eventually you have to truck it and its packaging to the dump, where that crap will sit forever, so you get pollution and sprawl all along that little gadget's lifecycle. Does the benefit of using a solar battery charger (compared to using coal-generated electricity) outweigh all of that collateral damage? And doesn't an "ecological" battery charger just encourage the purchase and use of other gadgets (including the batteries) that also have to be made, packaged, warehoused, shipped, shelved, sold, shopped for, taken home, and eventually thrown away?

Better to focus on buying up and retiring "permits to pollute" a la sandbag.
posted by pracowity at 7:29 AM on September 19, 2008


It is no wonder that the anti-intellectual party has become a party full of poorly educated, uncurious, anti-intellectuals.

But what has become of the intellectuals? Intellectuals used to fight in wars, overthrow governments, etc. They actually took real steps to destroy the systems that they perceived as being contrary to their ideals. The poorly educated, uncurious, anti-intellectuals seem to run most of the governments and companies that control the world today.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:35 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Byrony Worthington sounds like a character from those Bruce Dickinson novels.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:42 AM on September 19, 2008


...or a character in an Ian Dury song
posted by mandal at 7:50 AM on September 19, 2008


"One hopes that this religion is stifled in its cradle, "


But ..but, the Gaians get +1 added to all fungus bred in captivity!
posted by The Whelk at 8:11 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is estimated that the average person needs to save about 7,000 kg of CO2 per year.

So here's the next Repub talking point:
The Iraq war should really be called the Green War: it's already created millions of tonnes of offset CO2. The courageous men and women of the US have offset over 29 million tonnes of carbon dioxide this year alone. Our Iraqi allies have contributed an impressive 350 million tonne offset1 this year alone!
1Since 2005, includes both civilian and military contributions of 50,000. Figures for 2003-2005 are unavailable.

Next up: WWII, the Great Generation, or the first Green one?
posted by bonehead at 8:38 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huh. I wonder if it's related in any way to the Sandbag, the company that's an offshoot of Radiohead's merchandise site Waste?
posted by jokeefe at 8:45 AM on September 19, 2008


And making fun of people's names? Classy. And, more seriously, mocking what seems a genuine attempt to deal with carbon production-- however small it may be, however flawed-- and smugly dismissing global warming (which, I'm assuming, most people here, respecting, as they do science, take seriously)? Way to go. Also, special points for faze for managing to somehow characterize a practical plan for dealing with carbon offsets as cult.

Unless you think global warming is a religious fantasy? I mean, do you, honestly?
posted by jokeefe at 8:56 AM on September 19, 2008


*mentally adjusts commas in previous posting*
posted by jokeefe at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2008


This project is about dealing with the surplus in carbon credits that has been created by the government allocating more credits than the companies themselves are claiming they need.
The only sector to be given fewer permits than it needs is the electricity supply industry, which is more than 70m short. The government says this is because they are not subject to international competition, and they can pass on the cost of buying permits to customers. The under allocation to the UK electricity sector means emissions overall will reduce by some 60m tonnes a year.

Bryony Worthington, founder of Sandbag, said: "The way this is set up the environment takes all the risk and business doesn't take any. Hundreds of companies have been given a free ride while those that do have to buy permits can simply pass on the costs.

"That means electricity customers are effectively subsidising heavy industry's right to pollute, while being urged to make environmental sacrifices in their own lives."
Relentless lobbying by big business has attempted to further ruin the carbon trading scheme. They are showing their callous, myopic short-termism.
posted by asok at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2008


And making fun of people's names? Classy.

The names aren't that strange, except for Byrony, thus part of the joke. If they really were super villains, their names would be alliterative.
posted by stavrogin at 10:23 AM on September 19, 2008


This is such a romantic gift to give my SO who works in CO2 and future fuels.
posted by jouke at 11:00 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


“If one accepts the well-settled science that man-made activity is causing climate change, then a real conservative should be all over Kyoto as the most "market based" solution which has yet been proposed.”

I’d take a slight (very) exception with that (and not to address the argument wth faze).
In that this is cut from whole cloth in the first place. That is, buying tons of co2 emissions, et.al. are essentially only monitized in terms of force of compliance. Without that compliance there’s nothing, really, there.
I mean - what is the piece of paper worth if it’s not backed by some kind of actual force?
Perhaps we should invest in pollution enforcement hours or something. Money that goes to pay inspectors, police the environment, etc.
There are charts somewhere - what’s ‘x’ worth in terms of this or that. Blah Blah Blah.
What it comes down to - to put it simply - is more voting and putting pressure on the government.
The twin poles seem to be environment vs. jobs (or ‘jobs’ if only to recognize that this is the language companies are using whether it’s actual jobs or protection of profits).

So if one does accept that man-made activity is causing climate change, then a real conservative should recognize the encroachment of property rights global warming exerts.
I mean - you’re right - eco-capitalism - solid.
But monitizing air or water property rights is a form of force in that regard which I disagree with. It can’t be sold. You can’t own it.
How much can you pay me so that your smoke stack dumps smoke into my backyard? How much can you pay me so we inch that much closer to the total destruction of my property?
There’s no dollar amount, really, no matter of degrees, and yet here we are, negotiating.
You can’t favor individual rights, assert individual responsibility and insure private property rights while monitizing responsibility for dumping garbage on everyone’s property. Because then who’s responsibility is it? The people who buy the papers?
Well then who’s responsibility is it to clean it up?

(Hell, even the Randite Libertarians should be on board - Ayn Rand said the law can and does hold people responsible if they create a physical danger - even noise - which extends beyond his property line)

Reminds me of ‘Indecent Proposal’ - it’s got nothing to do with the money - guy offers me $1 million to spend the night with my wife I break his head open for calling my wife a whore.

And there’s hundreds of years of common law that deals with property rights.
The issue then (for me, and I suppose, as a conservative) is that the law is not being enforced, but being skirted through monetary means.
Your company pollutes and it will go out of business if it has to change? Well, maybe we’ll give you a loan or something, but change it or go out of business.
This focus on short term (jobs) over the long term (adaptation to changing circumstances) is what killed off many many species before us.

A real conservative would focus on the rule of law and tradition. A lot’s changed since Burke and Teddy Roosevelt though. Some folks cloaking themselves in that term seem to think it means ‘screw people out of as much money as possible no matter what the consequences.’

Flaw seems to be some governments (and their business interests) gaming the commons. So the hell with it. Just bring down the force of the law. Most people like to, y’know, breathe.
Just one more thing folks seem to have abdicated on (not that they’re not pressed to do so).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:12 PM on September 19, 2008


If you don't know who the fool in the market is, you are the fool in the market. You've got a fake market subject to huge amounts of lobbying and you think that's it's a straight game and that you can play with the governments and lobbyists? So what if there are rules, when the time comes to change those rules sandbag won't be any different from anyone else dressed up in a turtle suit.
posted by Wood at 4:33 PM on September 19, 2008


Unless you think global warming is a religious fantasy? I mean, do you, honestly?

No, I'm just in favor of it. I think a warmer globe will be a better globe, in the long term.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:57 PM on September 19, 2008


Friends, presenting, once again, Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America, your one-stop source for the goofiest trolling in all of MeFiLand! Let's have a big hand for The Prez!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 PM on September 19, 2008


I'd love to hear MPDSEA's reasons, given the dramatic drop in productivity we'll see in the world's major agricultural regions, and the ensuing population shift. And the dramatic impacts on the heavily populated coastal regions, and the ensuing population shift. He must be a keen supporter of refugee rights.
posted by Jimbob at 12:53 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


We'll get new agricultural regions, so that seems like a wash. Population shifts will disrupt entrenched national and ethnic boundaries, and force a lot of rebuilding--giving the opportunity to actually think about how we do things this time.

Yeah, it'll be painful, but it's for the best.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:02 PM on September 20, 2008


will we also get new ponies?
posted by jammy at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


We'll get new agricultural regions

Who told you this?
posted by natteringnabob at 8:17 AM on September 21, 2008


Who told you this?

His Inner Troll.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:03 AM on September 22, 2008


I just looked at our webstats and metafilter beats the Guardian newspaper's website in terms of number of click throughs to sandbag.org.uk from an external site. I think that's amazing but then I am quite new to this web world. Answer re the tree question is do both. Bryony Worthington (not an arch criminal)
posted by Brysford at 9:18 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think saving rainforest is a nice way to reduce co2 emmissions (see carbonbalanced.org) however this is really just re-arranging the deckchairs on the titanic - as are a lot of the 'plant a tree' schemes, although at least carbonbalanced is run by a charity, and does some good in saving rainforest.

The attraction (for me) of buying carbon up from sandbag is that it will have an effect in reducing the amount of pollution, but also goes towards funding a group of campaigners who will lobby/heckle/persuade companies and governments to reduce the amount of carbon certificates out there. Given that there are many thousands of people lobbying on behalf of the polluters, the planet needs all the help it can get.
posted by Kimondo at 3:26 AM on September 26, 2008


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