CLAIM: The European Union is working to create a “personal carbon credit” system in which individuals pay directly for the greenhouse gases they produce.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Spokespersons for the EU’s legislative and executive offices say there has been no consideration of setting up such a system as it seeks to address the impacts of global warming. Climate change policy experts who have been closely watching the process say the EU has been focused on industry-level regulations, rather than ones directly on individuals.
THE FACTS: Social media users have been spreading false claims about new developments announced this month regarding the EU’s climate change efforts.
Many of the users are sharing a conservative website article claiming the regional trade bloc has taken the “first steps” toward imposing a “personal carbon credit system” in which every citizen will have to pay for their carbon emissions.
“Another conspiracy theory just came true guys. Personal carbon credit systems are here,” declared an Instagram user in a post that’s been liked more than 11,600 times as of Friday. “Residents of the European Union will have to pay for the greenhouse gasses they emit. This means that every time you fill up your car and turn on the heating, you have to pay for the harmful substances that are released as a result.”
“For all you people who insist Socialism is the way to go…guess what! YOU’RE gonna be on a carbon budget TOO!” wrote a Facebook user sharing a link to the article.
But European leaders have proposed no such requirements on individual citizens nor are they considering it, according to officials and experts.
“There has been no decision to set-up a personal carbon credit system’,” Thomas Haahr, a spokesperson for the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the 27-member union, wrote in an email this week.
Ana Crespo Parrondo, a spokesperson for the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, concurred, providing a list of about seven items the two sides have so far reached accord on for its “Fit For 55” legislative package, which is meant to help the region reach its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030.
Among them is a deal reached Sunday to revise regulations for the energy and industrial sectors. The agreement would speed up the phase-out of the emissions trading system for the industries in order to encourage companies to more aggressively cut the amount of pollutants they release into the atmosphere.
It would also extend the emissions system to the transportation and building sectors, a move that would likely raise the price of gasoline, natural gas and other fossil fuels for consumers. In addition, the two sides agreed to develop a tax on foreign companies seeking to import products that don’t meet the region’s climate-protection standards.
Sanjay Patnaik, an expert in EU climate change policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said the trade bloc’s has been focused on these kinds of industry-wide regulations, not ones directly imposed on individuals.
“I would be highly skeptical that anyone in EU government circles would suggest this as a real possibility,” he wrote in an email, referencing the personal carbon credit system idea. “This looks like a false statement/clear misinformation to me.”
Michael Pahle, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, agreed, adding that the likelihood of companies passing on higher fuel costs to consumers from the planned emissions regulations isn’t the same as implementing a personal carbon credit system.
Such a system — in which individuals are required to purchase or sell credits in order to acquire goods or services that produce greenhouse gas emissions — is “compelling,” but hasn’t been implemented on wide scale because it’s “highly impractical,” he said.
“The full carbon footprint of a person is extremely difficult to measure, except for flights and car usage maybe,” Pahle wrote in an email. “Just think of all the emissions embedded in products coming from anywhere in the world. And then everyone would need to submit and trade credits. This might be easy for geeks and the well educated, but this is just a minority.”
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.