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8 - The limits of climate capitalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Peter Newell
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
Matthew Paterson
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
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Summary

One of the questions we raised in the introduction to this book is whether the carbon economy is, frankly, a bit of a scam. That essentially it is more about making money than tackling climate change. If that remains your suspicion having read this far, rest assured you are in good company. Many critics will tell you the whole gamut of carbon trading, offsets and projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is based on dodgy accounting, unverifiable assumptions and merely provides new and elaborate ways of escaping obligations to act at home, making money all the while. Let's look at these concerns in a little more detail.

THE LIMITS OF CLEAN DEVELOPMENT

So if clean development is making money, is it delivering benefits for the climate (is it clean?) and is it contributing to development? To be registered under the UN's CDM, projects have to show that they achieve both these things.

The problem is that investors have been attracted to those areas where ‘low-hanging fruit’ (the easiest and cheapest options) are plentiful, where they have other reasons to invest and where institutions are much stronger. They have not been attracted to weaker states where poverty levels are higher and there are fewer opportunities for high returns over short time-frames. Because of this, flows of carbon finance tend to mirror flows of finance in general in the developing world.

Type
Chapter
Information
Climate Capitalism
Global Warming and the Transformation of the Global Economy
, pp. 129 - 140
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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References

Lohmann, L., Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power, Development Dialogue No. 48 (Uppsala: Dag Hammarsköld & Corner House, 2006)Google Scholar
Bachram, H., ‘Climate fraud and carbon colonialism: the new trade in greenhouse gasesCapitalism, Nature, Socialism, 15(4) (2004), 10–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Estrada-Oyuela, R., ‘First approaches and unanswered questions’, in Goldemberg, J. (ed.), Issues and Options: The Clean Development Mechanism (UNDP, 1998), pp. 23–9Google Scholar
Kill, J., ‘Land grab in Uganda in preparation for CDM sinks project’. World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, No. 74, September 2003Google Scholar
Smith, K., The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins (Amsterdam: Carbon Trade Watch, 2007)Google Scholar
Honigsbaum, M., ‘Is carbon offsetting the solution (or part of the problem)?The Observer, 10 June 2007Google Scholar

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