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The Australians are a little ahead of the USA in defining their "(Carbon) Emissions Trading Scheme":http://www.climatechange.gov.au/whitepaper/index.html
One highly significant aspect is that any efforts made by householders, such as using solar energy or cutting down on electricity usage, will have an absolutely zero impact on national carbon emissions.
This comes about because the system adopts the internationally agreed limit (Kyoto)for the country and makes this a goal. This volume of carbon is then doled out in proportions to industry, and if a business does not get a sufficient pollution allowance to continue production then it must purchase some from another business that has an excess.
This automatically means that household carbon emission reductions are absorbed by industry. In effect, your efforts to save the world are actually permitting industry to emit more carbon.
Efforts to create a market in carbon, thereby capturing greed for the public good, seem to have failed. The alternative policy to an ETS is a carbon tax in which each person or business pays a tax in proportion to their contribution to greenhouse gas.
We are socially conditioned to hate taxes and love markets, but in this case I think we need to think deeply about what we are trying to achieve and what will be the outcome for us personally as well as the world. The market will pass on all costs of the ETS to consumers and so the impact may be more than any tax that we would pay on our own emissions in the alternative carbon tax regime. And there will be nothing we can do to relieve our cost burden or help save the world.
The tax would ensure that the worst polluters will pay the most, and so have the greatest incentive to cut back on emissions - they won't be able to buy their way out of it, and pass on the costs.
There will be no limit to the reductions that can be achieved by the tax, whereas the ETS has a capped emission level that it is trying to achieve. The ETS will require constant adjustment to revise the cap and to overcome the multitude of reasons for market failure that the economists are always making excuses about.
A year ago it would have been heresy to criticise markets and propose an increase in tax, but perhaps the GFC is helping us to see these things more clearly now?