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< Ideas Bank, < Economic wellbeing
< Regeneration, < New Start editorial index page

Imagine a football league where, if a team has a run of bad results, it could simply buy points from another club.

So poor tottering Tottenham, for instance, instead of spending £16m on a misfiring striker, could use the dosh to procure points from Manchester City, saving Sven-Goran Eriksson from the dangers of vertigo in the process.

Conversely, an over-achieving team like Bristol City could sell points to help, say, either or both of the Sheffield clubs avoid an ignominious drop.

Promotion and relegation could be decided not by performance on the pitch but by who will do business with you, and on what terms.

Unfair? Unsportsmanlike? Open to abuse? Welcome to the world of carbon trading, where just such a system operates in the exchange of carbon credits – a scheme which compares unfavourably with bundling up US sub-prime mortgage loans and flogging them on to high street banks.

And has it brought about a reduction in CO2 emissions? You’ll see Accrington Stanley winning the Premier League first.

This is a tad worrying, because we really do need a system that drives down energy use and moves us towards an economy and communities that are genuinely sustainable.

News this week that ministers are considering abandoning the European renewable energy target (20% from renewable sources by 2020) is still more disconcerting.

Apparently it will cost about £4bn a year for us to get to 9%. Has Gordon Brown not heard the phrase ‘invest to save’?

We live in a strangely dysfunctional world where we’re happy to applaud Al Gore to the rafters but do so little in response to what we know about climate change that we’ll struggle to offset the energy consumed in the awareness-raising.

Last week Forum for the Future issued a league table of sustainable cities in the UK.

This is good news (especially if you live in Brighton; less so if your home is in Hull) but unfortunately the forum can’t offer meaningful rewards for improvement.

It wouldn’t take much imagination, though, to tweak the local government finance system to provide real incentives to progress towards sustainability.

Councils that promote and subsidise large-scale domestic micro-generation could win additional freedoms or funds. Planners can set tougher targets for zero-carbon homes.

The opportunities are there: has central or local government the will or the nous to grasp them?

Julian Dobson, editorial director, New Start Online magazine

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