My thumbs down to Tradable Energy Quotas

Lately people have been talking about “Tradable Energy Quotas” or TEQ. And I have been exchanging opinions with a fellow green blogger about it. The gist of my dissatisfaction with it is that I have seen many buzz words come and go that I do not think this one is any different.

By placing the environment in some kind of countable term and making it a national-level project immediately raises my suspicion of it. Instead of the environment being about countability it should be about accountability. And rather than it being on the national level it should be on the personal level.

Too often we are trying to make things a national or social responsibility. But it should start with each person. The more people needed to be involved in something the less effective it will be. That is why smaller groups and communities are more effective in tackling problems, not just environmental ones.

I used to scoff at family values. I used to do my scoffing most likely because I was single and I was at the minority end of the family unit. But now that I have own family I realise how important and how well it can work if there is trust. And that trust can only come from being familiar with every other member of the unit.

Community values work the same way. Growing up in the city I saw how neighbours kept to themselves, guarding their lives behind closed windows and drawn curtains. Privacy was the all consuming concern, and not how the neighbourhood, as a whole, is going. Having moved into a small rural Japanese community of three hundred people about four years ago I have come to understand how just important it is to be part of an open community and to work with people to create a better environment which does not end at your front door or property fence.

This unfettered trust can only come about by knowing the people who are in that unit or community. It is about (inter)personal responsibility, and not just responsibility by legality or social etiquette. Again the family unit is a place where this can be seen clearly; the access to personal space, finance, etc, areas open to abuse by other members are placed in check by only trust and responsibility.

Without these two factors – trust and responsibility – there can be no openness. And none of these can be measured, nor should they be.

2 thoughts on “My thumbs down to Tradable Energy Quotas”

  1. Shaun,

    No, I haven’t read it. But I will. Thank you.

    Much of what I write is about wording and phrasing. Like Gross National Happiness (GNH) I feel the ‘term’ Tradable Energy Quota has a negative impact which eventually will end up as another good idea wasted because misuse or abuse.

    If the fight is with economics, and the terminology used is economic-like, economics will turn it around and corrupt it, misuse it. It has happened all too often before.

    That is why I am pushing for a change in terminology. It may not be as well accepted but it will be durable and more effective in the long run.

    I will read it and write something about it in the near future. I think it is a worthwhile area to follow up on.


  2. I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said, apart from the “thumbs down to TEQs” part! I may be wrong, but I suspect you haven’t read the freely downloadable booklet on TEQs available at

    TEQs are explicitly about motivating personal and local actions on climate change and energy resource depletion. They provide a framework that encourages a sense of common purpose in the country, as opposed to some top-down system telling indivduals what they have to do.

    Personally I thought TEQs would never work, and I emailed David Fleming (their creator) telling him why. Then I met him at Schumacher College and we discussed it at length, and now I’m such a convert I’m actually working with him to promote it! I really do recommend giving the time to read the booklet and thoroughly understand it.


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