Every UK citizen could be issued with a carbon “credit card” under a carbon rationing scheme that could come into operation within five years, according to a government feasibility study. Cards would be used every time someone bought petrol, paid an energy utility bill or booked an airline ticket.

Environment Secretary David Miliband said the idea of individual carbon allowances had “a simplicity and beauty that would reward carbon thrift”. Under the scheme, everybody would be given an annual allowance of the carbon they could expend on a range of products, probably food, energy and travel. If they wanted to use more carbon, they would be able to buy it from somebody else. And they could sell any surplus.

The study also claims that individual carbon trading is less regressive than carbon taxes, as the poor emit less than the rich.

Does this mean that the rich end up paying the poor fifty pounds to go skiing or to their villa in the South of France? But the rich can afford to pay, so will it actually change peoples’ behavior?