Gas quotas seen as EU climate policy solution

Researchers debate taxes versus trading for EU implementation of Kyoto protocol

Climate policy experts from European and North American governments, businesses and research bodies have discussed the prospects for setting up national and international systems of emissions trading to comply with the Kyoto climate change protocol, at a conference held last week in Oslo. Organised by two Norwegian research agencies, the conference was intended to mark the launch of a national expert group studying the prospects for a national emissions trading system. This was formed after a government proposal to extend carbon taxes instead was defeated last summer. Norway is behind the USA, but ahead of other European countries in terms of its interest in emissions quotas and trading, but researchers involved in last week's conference believe it is in the vanguard of an important trend. "Tradable quotas have replaced environmental taxation as the most attractive instrument in climate policy," says Asbjørn Aaheim of the Oslo-based Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (Cicero), who gave a paper at the conference on climate quotas in the EU context. According to Mr Aaheim, though economists are sceptical if taxes are replaced by quotas, in fact quota systems can deliver cost-effective emissions reductions while reducing political conflict. "Since policy-making is usually considered as the 'art of the possible'..., a distribution of quotas relatively free of conflicts may be more appropriate than taxes in a political context," he argued.

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