I Want My Rations

4 minutes read. 

Climate change left unchecked will devastate societies and economies. We can act now though – with carbon rationing on an individual level, and then scaling it up once the ball starts rolling.


If you watch your carbon footprint or have even a modicum of what is known as ‘carbon literacy’, then great stuff, you are already doing carbon rationing for yourself.

There are numerous carbon footprint calculators. Most of them will tell you how many tonnes of CO2 you emit and then try to get you to offset the amount – I wrote here why offsetting is a sticking plaster that doesn’t really address the long term problem: https://carbonwatchdog.org/offsetting/


The problem with carbon footprints is that it is difficult to work out what to do once you’ve nailed the low hanging fruit – air travel for instance. By joining a local carbon rationing group, you can share the knowledge and experience with like-minded people and boost your efforts and personal satisfaction at your progress.

The charity Rational Carbon has just started out mid-2020 with the goal of launching, supporting and promoting local carbon rationing groups in the UK.

Regional and City-based

Local groups of voluntary low-carbon-lifestyle people aim to get local businesses and town or city councils involved as well. This is where it really gets interesting – there are so many different facets to carbon rationing or “carbon allowances” or personal carbon trading as it is also known. It has so much potential for CO2 emissions reduction.

In the city of Lahti, Finland, the city council has set up a voluntary carbon rationing scheme called “Citicap”, referring to the citizens’ cap-and-trade scheme, all possible over their mobiles.


Climate change will not be sorted once and for all if only half of us are interested. If governments make it mandatory for everyone, they would be putting their nations on the straight and narrow path to zero emissions. We’ve had rationing before during wartime and now, faced with threats of a similar magnitude due to climate change, it’s time for it again.

If voluntary regional or city-based carbon rationing schemes have great potential, then at a national scale, the possibilities are fantastic. With citizens driving the energy transition through the whole economy and demanding comprehensive CO2 emission reductions in all products and services, the targets and goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement look achievable again.

We’ve put together a policy proposal called Total Carbon Rationing that shows how.

Global Carbon Rationing

Getting the world to do global carbon rationing is an awesome endeavour. Yet that’s exactly what the United Nations Climate Conventions up until Copenhagen 2010 were all about (the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change COPs or “Conference of Parties”).

This UNFCCC plan for multi-national carbon rationing was called the Contraction and Convergence Initiative or “C&C”.

It was never implemented though. After 20 years of trying, the UN climate convention in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2010 failed to reach unanimous agreement. The UN realised how doomed its attempts were to create a top-down agreement between all nations on a radical, planned, step-wise energy transition away from CO2-emitting fossil fuels.

Instead, the UN sought only unanimous agreement on a global goal – which they achieved with the Paris 2015 Agreement: to aim to keep total global warming to 1.5°C / 2.7°F, with no specific mandatory agreement over how much and how soon CO2 emissions would be reduced.

The UN C&C initiative is still there though, and this is how it would work – in a world which decided it was necessary.

Contraction stands for the steady reduction in CO2 emissions that each nation would agree to. The richer countries would take on more responsibility for reducing their emissions faster. The countries with the largest historic emissions would also take on more responsibility, maybe through sharing and subsidising investment in green infrastructure with other countries.

Convergence stands for the way that all nations’ per capita emissions would gradually converge to equality. There would be a date set in the future at which point all citizens in all countries would be allocated the same CO2 emissions allowance, or at least their government would be on their behalf.