Environmental Karma

Environmental Karma

I would design a policy concerning distribution of responsibility. Economic policies like taxes have been applied to adjust demand/supply so as to reflect externalies. Although I only know basic economic principles, I presume a problems of such policies. People who may adjust their behaviors under such policies are totally passive and therefore unconscious of environmental values. Although prolonged policies may result in some habits that are environmentally beneficial, they don’t necessarily result in people who are environmentally conscientious. Also, one of the innate problem of tax in general, is that government’s redistribution may not be just. For example, environmental sector may not have an adequate share of the tax revenue, while negative effects have already been made by the production and consumption where the taxes came from.

Therefore, I propose a policy that focus more on people’s awareness of the issue and therefore of their positive responsibility. This policy is, however, rather a unrealistic one. It entails first a calculation of carbon footprint (and maybe other environmental burdens like plastic using.) on the family level. This maybe done voluntarily. A more practical approach can be a individual carbon (or environmental impact) account. This account will be like a credit card, but also accessible with phones. In every purchase, however, the customers would be asked to provide their account, either as a card to swipe or as a phone app to use NFC or generate a temporary QR code for scanning.  For privacy concern, the account don’t have to be related to any bank account or social security account. However, (since it’s already unrealistic,) if such account can be attached to credit card, it would be much more convenient. At the same time, producers would have on record their products’ environmental impact information. (like food product’s nutrition facts.) On the carbon account, there will be no exact record on what products one buys exactly, but rather accumulation of environmental impact scores. (This would circumvent privacy concerns.)

With the system set as such, individuals need to update their account record to the government annually — maybe on tax day. Here comes the entree: each individual, or family, should take some actions in the next year to clear their negative impacts the previous year. Such actions should take reference to community greening work, special eduction camps, working with NGOs, and so on, guided and evaluated by a special committee. This committee should set standard examples and samples of types of work, how much impact score can they redeem, and, most importantly, the educational effects of the work. The examples and samples the committee set would work like legal cases and rulings. Therefore, only when some new types of work were proposed would the committee review the work. In essence, such work should be educational than compensatory.

Importantly, the carbon account get cleared annually so not to allow working as if compensating: one cannot work to accumulate positive impact score.

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