ZEW Research Project on "Willingness to Spend Money to Prevent CO2"


Within the framework of a research project, a scientific study has been conducted at the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim, Germany, in December 2011. The aim of the study was the inquiry of the real willingness to prevent CO2. For this purpose 157 citizens from Mannheim have been invited to ZEW. After explaining the EU's emission trading scheme, they have been offered to buy CO2 certificates under different conditions. As an incentive to participate at the study, the participants have been paid up to 40 euros each. In total, 55 tons of CO2 have been bought.

In comparison:

  • The average German citizen causes approximately 11 tons of CO2 each year.
  • A household consisting of two persons uses approximately 3030 kWh per year. Considering the current mixed energy supply in German (coal, gas, nuclear power, renewable energy), this corresponds to 1.89 tons of CO2.
  • A VW Golf 1.4 TSI emits approximately 139 gram of CO2 per kilometre. An annual mileage of 10,000 kilometres causes emissions of 1.39 tons of CO2.

The global climate change is considered a serious environmental problem, the humanity has to face. The vast majority of climate researchers expects that the global average temperature will increase by 1.1 to 6.4 degree Celsius by 2100. No one denies that humankind considerably contributes to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases, i.e. carbon dioxide (CO2) among others. CO2 is caused when combusting fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas in industrial processes and energy production or when using combustion engines in vehicles. CO2 is a global pollutant, i.e. every quantity unit of CO2 emitted has the same climate effect, regardless of where it was emitted.

Since 2005, the European Union's main instrument to fight against climate change has been the emissions trading of carbon dioxide (CO2). Emissions trading is based on an easy concept: The EU commission together with the EU member states has set how much CO2 is allowed to be emitted by 2020 by the sectors involved (energy suppliers and energy-intensive industries). The total volume is distributed to the companies by the governments as emission allowances (certificates). For every quantity unit of CO2 emitted, a company has to pass a certificate to the government. Companies are allowed to trade with these certificates.

For every quantity unit of CO2 which is to be emitted by a plant, e.g. a coal power station, the plant operator has to have a permit, i.e. a certificate. This has one important consequence: If the total volume of certificates is reduced, the overall emissions will decrease, simply because the plant operators do not have any permits for emissions. If a certificate for one quantity unit of CO2 is purchased and then deactivated (i.e. deleted), the total CO2 emissions are reduced by this quantity unit. Within the EU emissions trading system, there is indeed the option to deactivate certificates. In Germany, emissions trading is audited by the German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt) which holds the account DE-230-17-1. If certificates are transferred to this account, they are deactivated, i.e. deleted, at the end of each year.

UniCredit Bank AG in Munich has purchased the certificates. ZEW has opened an account (DE-121-2810-0) at DEHSt with the special purpose of deleting certificates. The proof of the transaction can be found here: Deletion of certificates.