Tag Archives: critique of emissions trading

Beyond the silver bullet: the case for diversity in responding to climate change

With all the buzz and anti-buzz about the climate change talks in Copenhagen, it’s easy to get caught up in the dis-empowering idea that a global Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), agreed upon top-down, at Copenhagen (or maybe at the next conference…) is the only hope for meaningful action on climate change. After all, climate change is a global problem, with huge free-rider risks, so it must require a global solution, right?

Nobel prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom makes the case, in her working paper “A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change” that a better response to the problems of climate change is ‘polycentric’ with a diversity of responses occurring simultaneously in different geographical locations and at different levels of government and society.

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Filed under Barry, climate change

Don’t frighten the horses! Emissions trading as “regulation lite”

The advocates of ‘more markets’ and ‘minimal government’ would like us to think they know the secret to efficient and effective regulation of human behaviour. But can we really apply such neoliberal thinking to the climate change crisis? Can the application of more markets possibly fix what Nicholas Stern (2006) describes as “the greatest market failure in history”?

In 2008, Robert Baldwin, professor of law at the London School of Economics, published a working paper that examines the case for and against emissions trading as effective regulation.

What I want to look at here is Baldwin’s analysis of the regulatory philosophy which underpins the current trading approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Disturbingly, he finds an erosion of democratic accountability and reduced expectations of legitimacy; this is what he calls “regulation lite.”

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Filed under climate change, David

Carbon markets stifle innovation – Traditional regulatory methods would be more effective

On its climate change information website, the New Zealand government explains how:

An emissions trading scheme (ETS) introduces a price on greenhouse gases to provide an incentive for people to reduce emissions and enhance forest sinks. Emissions trading provides flexibility in how participants comply with their obligations, enabling a least-cost response.

There are, of course, other ways to reduce emissions, such as traditional regulatory mechanisms. Pejorative phrases such as ‘command-and-control’ are usually used in the brief moment before regulation is dismissed from consideration. Indeed, the NZ Ministry for the Environment (MfE) asserts that imposing a price on greenhouse gas emissions is advantageous because:

It harnesses the market dynamic by providing automatic incentives for firms to invest in reducing emissions and to shift to lower-emissions products and services.

It provides flexibility for firms and fosters innovation and the seeking out of least-cost emission reduction strategies.

But something rather important is being glossed over here: An ETS doesn’t provide an automatic incentive for all firms to reduce emissions.

And, it turns out, this simple observation leads to some very awkward conclusions that have not been part of the carbon trading debate.

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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, climate change, David, economic analysis

The Green Party must support climate justice not emissions trading schemes

Climate change is what is known as a ‘wicked’ problem [1]. That’s not a street term – it is a formal academic term for problems which suffer from:

— incomplete description,

— changing parameters, and

— complex interdependencies,

to which we might add

— a limited time frame to reach solutions,

— the lack of a single authority to implement solutions, and

— our own involvement in generating both problem and solutions.

Furthermore, a solution to one part of a wicked problem can reveal or cause new aspects of the problem.

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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, climate change, David, green politics

Let’s call the Business Roundtable’s bluff on a carbon tax

The New Zealand Business Roundtable (NZBR) is opposed to a greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme for Aotearoa (as reported here). I agree with them. As I have written on Wellsharp before, the ETS idea is flawed on a number of levels.
In its place, the NZBR proposes a carbon tax. However, while idea of a carbon tax has its merits in principle, the NZBR’s framing of it has several very dubious implications.

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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, climate change, David, social justice

Carbon markets: Trading in ignorance

Are tradeable emission credits, offset schemes and carbon markets the way to solve the climate crisis? Do such markets demonstrate how ‘environment’ and ‘development’ can be combined into ‘green capitalism’? In a carefully argued deconstruction of the carbon market fiction, Larry Lohmann explains how such markets effectively conceal and undermine “the knowledge and analysis needed to respond to global warming.”

In his article, Lohmann provides examples of the wilful ignorance inherent in carbon markets. The following is my summary of these ’10 ways in which carbon markets create ignorance’.

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Filed under capitalism, climate change, David, social justice

The Carbon Connection

Greens around the world are exhorting governments to take action on climate change. But in encouraging this action, we are also responsible for ensuring that it is both meaningful and just. The theme of climate justice is central to the 40-minute documentary The Carbon Connection (available for free viewing here).

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Filed under climate change, David, green politics, social justice