Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Earth Atmospheric Trust

In this week's issue of Science, I read an article entitled "Creating an Earth Atmospheric Trust", by Peter Barnes, Robert Costanza, Paul Hawken, David Orr, Elinor Ostrom, Alvaro Umaña and Oran Young.
I think this is a really simple and therefore great idea, which would enable us to solve both global warming and global poverty issues altogether.
Here are the essential mechanisms, from the Science article:

"The core of this system is the idea of a common asset trust. Trusts are widely used and well-developed legal mechanisms designed to protect and manage assets on behalf of specific beneficiaries. Extending this idea to the management and protection of a global commons, such as the atmosphere, is a new but straightforward extension of this idea."

The mechanism is to "create a global cap-and-trade system for all greenhouse gas emissions", to "auction off all emission permits, and allow trading among permit holders", to "reduce the cap over time to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level equivalent to 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide (or lower)", to "deposit all the revenues into an Earth Atmospheric Trust", to "return a fraction of the revenues derived from auctioning permits to all people on Earth in the form of an annual per capita payment" (which would be insignificant to the rich compared to the increase in prices for products and services that required emitting lots of green-house gases, but would be significant for the poor to get access to basic living needs and build infrastructure to get out of the infernal circle of poverty), and to "use the remainder of the revenues to enhance and restore the atmospheric asset, to encourage both social and technological innovations, and to administer the Trust. These funds could be used to fund renewable energy projects, research and development on new energy sources, or payments for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration."

I higly recommend you to learn more here, and to add your name to the list of people endorsing the creation of the Earth Atmospheric Trust. I also encourage you to read the first article they link on their web site, which is slightly more detailed than the Science article, and propose some possible solutions to practical questions such a simple idea can raise.

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