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The Story of Cap & Trade

The Story of Cap & Trade

Remember The Story of Stuff, the very successful viral about our production and consumption patterns? The follow-up just arrived: The Story of Cap & Trade.

The Story of Cap & Trade is the first in a series of six short films the Story of Stuff Project is releasing over the coming year with Free Range Studios and more than a dozen of the world’s leading sustainability organizations.
The Story of Cap & Trade takes a provocative but humorous look at cap and trade, the leading climate solution under consideration in Copenhagen and on Capitol Hill. Employing the same urgent honesty that made The Story of Stuff so successful—and flash animation that makes it clear who wins and who loses—The Story of Cap & Trade points to the ‘devils in the details’ in current cap and trade proposals: free permits to big polluters, fake carbon offsets and, most importantly, distraction from the significant tasks at hand in tackling the climate crisis.

“The Story of Cap & Trade helps viewers understand what’s on offer from world leaders and argues that we can and must do better,” said Annie Leonard, Director of the Story of Stuff Project. “We’re releasing the film now, in the run-up to Copenhagen, to ensure that Americans and others clearly understand the solutions on the table and to inspire them to push our leaders for real solutions to climate change.”

What is cap and trade?
Cap and trade, also known as carbon trading or emissions trading, is one of the leading proposed solutions to the global climate crisis. The climate legislation currently under consideration in the United States, for instance, proposes a national cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions.
Under cap and trade schemes, individual governments or intergovernmental bodies, like the United Nations, set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions allowed within
a given time period — that’s the cap.

In order to keep carbon emissions below the set cap, compa- nies are allotted “carbon permits” or “emissions allowances” that allow them to release limited amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If a company plans to pollute more than their allotted limit, they can buy permits from companies that haven’t used all of theirs — that’s the trade.

Proponents of cap and trade argue that innovative companies will invest in technologies that lower their pollution levels below their cap, giving them a surplus of permits they can sell to companies that need them because they are exceeding their own pollution limits. The logic is that as long as we stay under the cap, it doesn’t matter who pollutes and who innovates.

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