All posts by Adrian Wrigley

Fri 16 May 13:45: Policies for Reducing Personal Carbon Registration Required:

Policies for Reducing Personal Carbon

Emissions arising in the home or from personal transportation constitute about half of direct UK greenhouse gas pollution. Various policies have been suggested to tackle these sectors, such as personal energy quotas or environmetal tax reform, but may face large political barriers. This meeting we will discuss how governments should regulate personal greenhouse gas pollution with the following excellent panelists who will speak on Policies for Reducing Personal Carbon:


  1. Dr Terry Barker, 4CMR, University of Cambridge,
  2. Dr Philip Sargent, Cambridge Energy Forum,
  3. Dr Richard Starkey, Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester
  4. Dr Adrian Wrigley, University of Cambridge
  5. Prof Douglas Crawford-Brown, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Programme: Policies for Reducing Personal Carbon

1345 – 1415: Coffee and Registration

1415 – 1430: Welcome and Introduction

Dr Terry Barker – 4CMR, University of Cambridge

Dr Philip Sargent – Cambridge Energy Forum

Chair: Dr Terry Barker – 4CMR, University of Cambridge

1430 – 1500: Personal Carbon Trading: an overview
Dr Richard Starkey – Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester

1500 – 1530: Systemic Fiscal Reform
Dr Adrian Wrigley – University of Cambridge

1530 – 1550: Reducing Personal Carbon Footprints: a UK-US Comparison Professor Douglas Crawford Brown – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

1550 – 1620: Tea

1620 – 1655: Panel session and Questions

Chair: Dr Terry Barker – 4CMR, University of Cambridge


  • Dr Richard Starkey – University of Manchester
  • Dr Adrian Wrigley – University of Cambridge
  • Prof Doug Crawford-Brown – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

1655 – 1700: Concluding remarks

Dr Terry Barker – 4CMR, University of Cambridge

1700 – 1800: Reception

Coffee and tea are provided half-way through the afternoon, and wine and a buffet after the closing remarks.

Speaker Biographies

Dr Terry Barker is Director, 4CMR (Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research), Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, Leader of the Tyndall Centre’s Integrated Modelling programme of research and Chairman of Cambridge Econometrics. He was a Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001) and the Fourth Assessment Report (2007) for the chapter on mitigation from a cross-sectoral perspective, covering the macroeconomic costs of mitigation at national, regional and global levels in the short and medium term (to 2030). Research interests are in GHG mitigation policy, large-scale computable energy-environment-economy and world energy modelling. He has directed and co-ordinated many large projects building and applying large-scale economic models of the UK, the European Union and the global economy. He has edited or authored some 12 books and 100 articles and papers.

Dr Philip Sargent is a founder of the Cambridge Energy Forum and takes a lead in developing its programme of work. He has extensive knowledge of energy technologies internationally. Philip had had a university research career as a physical metallurgist working in product design and materials selection at Cambridge, Technion and Carnegie Mellon universities where he was a visiting professor. He is a member of the Institute for Materials, Minerals and Mining, a Chartered Engineer, and has accountancy and management experience. He is currently working at Diboride Conductors Ltd., which he founded, which makes superconducting wire with Rolls Royce plc.

Dr Richard Starkey works at the University of Manchester and is a research fellow at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. During his time at Tyndall he has conducted research into the feasibility and appropriateness of Domestic Tradable Quotas (DTQs), a proposed personal carbon trading scheme. An equal allocation of emissions rights is at the heart of personal carbon trading and, over the last two years, Richard has been assessing what level of support exists within the philosophical literature on distributive justice for such an allocation.

Dr Douglas Crawford-Brown is Emeritus Professor in Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Emeritus Director of the Institute for the Environment, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He moved to Cambridge, UK, in 2008 and is now Senior Sustainability Advisor for Pell Frischmann and a Principal in EnviroTech, linking energy and environmental innovators, investors and adopters. He received his degrees in physics (BS; MS) and nuclear science (PhD) from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His activities focus on sustainability in the public and private sectors, modeling human health risks, modeling alternative policies to tackle environmental problems, assessing the quality of scientific information, and developing tools of risk assessment.

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Sweeping not tweaking

Tax reform is essential is we are to stop or slow many of the most persistent threats to our environment. Here Dr Adrian Wrigley lays out his ideas for a radical Carbon Tax and explains how replacing the Council Tax with a Land Value Tax could solve the current housing crisis

The Conservatives are considering an array of tax tweaks this week based on studies by the Centre for Social Justice. Their latest recommendations include tax rewards for married couples and welfare measures aimed at “ending the costs of social breakdown”. But although they deserve full marks for identifying the symptoms and establishing that the culprit is the structure of the tax and benefit system, their “solutions” show an astonishing failure to grasp the magnitude of the social, economic and environmental crises that we face.

Founded on the philosophically appealing but flawed concepts of “taxation based on ability to pay” and welfare assistance to “those most in need of support”, the tax and benefit system has become a terrible bureaucratic monster. Tax treatment of marriage is the tip of the iceberg since the impact of this tax monster runs deep – promoting environmental outrages such shelling British prawns in Thailand for sale back in the UK. The flights each way are exempt from tax and enable cuts in highly taxed British jobs. The poverty trap this creates causes unemployment and degrades the environment

The necessary reforms are simple but radical. We need to re-examine the tax, benefits, subsidies and laws that affect the core economic and environmental foundations of society, and embark on a 20-year programme to abolish those found to be unnecessary, complex or harmful. The few taxes remaining will be developed as the basis for a freer, fairer and sustainable society. Prosperity will rise as wastage falls.

A new Carbon Tax would allow the phased abolition of VAT across Europe. This would be a welcome step for business owners and customers alike, boosting the service sector and cutting red tape. The new tax would be levied on the extraction and importation of fossil fuels, and the release of global warming gases such as methane. The UK carbon tax rate needed to replace VAT today is £140/tonne CO2 – about 40p on a litre of petrol. A carbon tax would drive investment in the low-carbon sectors, particularly into power generation, transport and home energy efficiency. It would lead to the abandonment of calls for new airport runways and terminals as the aviation sector decreased in size, and green subsidies, biofuel mandates and pollution permit trading systems would become unnecessary.

Another high priority is addressing the root cause of the housing crisis. Almost any productive activity undertaken in the UK is subject to hefty taxes. Investment, saving, working and innovation all pay more than their fair share to The Exchequer. The only refuge from high taxes is the housing market, a situation that causes booms, busts and inequity.

Evidence of a real housing “shortage” is absent. A real shortage would show up as overcrowding nationwide. People would be walking the streets in the hope of finding a room. Room prices would be high, and there would be no empty houses.

We have a crisis of affordability and allocation. People are borrowing eight times their income to get on the housing ladder yet there are 700,000 derelict houses, 500,000 second homes, and hundreds of thousands of pensioners’ homes with at least three bedrooms spare. The overheated Spanish housing market shows that rapid building programmes do not cure price bubbles.

Turning the Council Tax into a monthly land value tax (LVT) paid by all landowners based on the full rental value of the underlying land is key to a just and rational tax system. This would allow the elimination of Inheritance and Capital Gains Tax, and Business Rates. Equivalent to 0.25% of current house prices, the LVT would also fund major welfare reform and a simple flat rate income tax.

The LVT would help bring derelict city land into productive use. Single people in large houses would tend to move to smaller ones. Under LVT, outsize homes cannot be an alternative to a pension so elderly people in large properties would either “roll up” their pension payments via a charge against their house, or would move to smaller premises.

The impact on housing supply and demand would be startling: plans for new towns would become redundant; the need for new roads and other infrastructure would evaporate and, together with the Carbon Tax, the LVT will protect the countryside and prevent suburban sprawl.

Green Party supporters will recognise the ideas here but also see substantial differences. Two things are certain: tweaking taxes will not do – sweeping reform must become mainstream, and the debate on ecological taxation is just beginning.

Originally published in the Ecologist magazine. Published here with permission from the author.

Carbon Tax: a net benefit to the UK economy

By Adrian Wrigley

Full Document on a Carbon Tax: Submission to the Treasury committee on the Stern Review (pdf)

It is claimed here that the benefits to the general economy of an aggressive Carbon Tax regime (over £200/tonne CO2) outweigh the costs by a substantial margin. This is because the revenue generated for The Treasury can completely displace the least efficient taxes and welfare benefits, cutting deadweight costs enormously. The economic benefit of this tax reform will exceed the net mitigation costs incurred, even at very high levels of carbon tax. This argument is an extension of the “double dividend” hypothesis, which seems to be rejected by the Review without detailed consideration.

There is no need for international cooperation to put into effect a substantial carbon tax for revenue raising purposes. The policy would enhance overall economic efficiency compared with the status quo, and would be sensible even without the consequent carbon reductions. Leadership by example in this way would produce much earlier cuts in carbon emissions and motivate other nations to follow suit. This would produce multinational action without needing international action.