17 December, 2018

The solution to deadlocked climate change policy? Decentralised carbon pricing

Share this blog post

As carbon emissions continue to increase and the threat of climate change looms ever closer, action is required now more than ever in order to address the problem.


Traditionally, when facing crises at a global or national level one of the first places we often look to for guidance and aid is our government. As our representatives on the global stage and leaders of policy both foreign and domestic, we rely on them to pass legislation, act in our best interest, and tackle the issue at hand.


Unfortunately, sometimes this approach does not always work out as we would hope. Our politicians can fail to meet our expectations, our government can be slow to act, and even if ultimately implemented their policies can still be rendered ineffective by convoluted bureaucracy and inefficient administration.


In many parts of the world, when it comes to climate change policy we’ve seen political manoeuvring block or otherwise delay meaningful action for a number of years.


With time now a critical factor, can we afford to keep waiting? Is there an alternative?



Introducing a decentralised carbon price


If we sit back and rely on governments to solve climate change for us, we’re effectively inserting them directly into the heart of the process and tying all subsequent parts of the challenge into them. It’s a centralised system, and one which to date hasn’t achieved anywhere near enough. More often than not progress has stalled at the core (the government) and so nothing else has been able to move forward.


The logical solution is to decentralise. By decentralising, and ensuring all authority and responsibility regarding climate change policy isn’t concentrated in one single, central administrative centre, we can get everything moving more freely. The work can no longer be handicapped by political deadlocks before it even gets a chance to begin.


A simple way to think of it is to look at train maps of Sydney or Melbourne, compared to those of Singapore or London. Sydney and Melbourne both follow a centralised approach; their train lines resemble the spokes of a wheel all flowing into and out of one central hub. Singapore and London on the other hand are organised in a more decentralised manner; their train lines are closer to webs, the various lines interconnected and laid over one another.


For Sydney or Melbourne, if there is an issue on one of the lines then it can potentially cripple part of the network; nothing can flow up or down past that one point. Worse, if the area that has failed happens to be the central hub (as it is in the case of political climate change policy) then the entire network is impacted. Nothing can get in or out of the centre, and many of the lines are completely cut off from one another.


By contrast, if there is a problem on one of the lines in Singapore or London the consequences are relatively minor; travellers can simply choose a different route and avoid the problem. There is also no one critical spot which if rendered inoperative would disastrously affect all others. With all lines effectively interconnected, the flow of movement can continue regardless of any issues that may arise.


If we apply the same concept to climate change policy, and implement a decentralised carbon trading platform, we can achieve the same results; an efficient, scalable solution, incapable of being compromised by any one failing element.


Rather than rely on one central authority to set a carbon price we can instead allow the price to be determined at a social level, with businesses able to link targets and achieve carbon pricing efficiencies. We can eliminate a number of factors which could otherwise debilitate or delay progress, such as lobbying efforts and short term political distractions, as without a central hub they’re rendered ineffective. We can also ensure the security of the solution, as by storing and sharing all information openly and public (rather than contained at one central location) we remove the possibility that it can be tampered with.



With climate change on the horizon we face a real and growing crisis. However, by shifting our mindset and recognising that we no longer have to rely on governments to solve the problem for us, we can finally move forward with a decentralised carbon pricing solution, reduce emissions, and help address the issue ourselves.


By decentralising climate change policy, we can stop just saying “something needs to be done”, and actually do it.