A Book that Hates Cap&Trade

The emissions trading system that supports the cap&trade provision of the Obama administration’s energy and climate legislation stirs intense passions and violently contradictory impressions of its value and effectiveness.

Advocates (including political leaders, scientists, environmentalists and veterans of the climate change fight) believe it has already, in Europe, put the powers of the marketplace to work to achieve emissions controls and will allow the U.S. to participate in a worldwide effort to dial back the rising global temperature and its likely attendant catastrophe.

The authors of Carbon Trading; How it works and why it fails, Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes of the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, believe cap&trade redefines the challenges of climate change so that “neoliberal economics” can provide a market-oriented solution. ::continue::

Gilbertson and Reyes (G&R) argue that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the world’s largest carbon market, is a failure and the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) supports “environmentally ineffective and socially unjust” emissions reduction projects. They argue that there are more effective, just and fair methods of fighting climate change, including more precisely targeted subsidies and better regulation. They are right. But those more just and fair methods are not presently accessible.

Advocates of the EU ETS and a global emissions trading marketplace contend that the short-term failures of the system already at work are the result of developing from scratch what is projected to become one of the world’s largest commodities markets. They point out that, over the long-term, EU emissions have fallen a small amount and, if the marketplace is allowed to work, emissions will continue falling.

Advocates of the CDM argue that the majority of its projects have cut emissions and the system can become even more effective as the skill to manage investments grows.

Fails? (click to enlarge)

The Gilbertson and Reyes (G&R) book has 5 chapters…

Chapter (1) introduces carbon trading, explains how it works and who the market players and regulators are;

Chapter (2) explores the history and architects of emissions trading;

Chapter (3) examines the EU ETS, presents the case that it has rewarded polluting companies and failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and argues that the overallocation of emissions permits that allowed these failures are fundamental to cap™

Chapter (4) presents the CDM, examines 4 CDM project case studies (in Thailand, India, Indonesia and Brazil) and argues that offset projects, even those that fund New Energy, will not defeat climate change; and

Chapter (5) presents alternative solutions and how to make them work.

There is no better way to review a book than to let it speak for itself. Here is the closing paragraph of Carbon Trading; How it works and why it fails:

“There are no short cuts around the difficult work of political organising and alliance building. There are no back roads or technofixes around the historical and international policies that have created climate change. No aspect of the debate on climate change can be disentangled from discussions about colonialism, racism, gender, women’s rights, exploitation, land grabs, agriculture and the democratic control of technology. Carbon trading will never address these critical issues because the struggle against climate change has to be part of the larger fight for a more just, democratic and equal world.”

It is a profoundly admirable and noble vision of a world that truly works not just for the wealthy but for one and all. If this was a book review, NewEnergyNews would describe the book as a jargonistic diatribe that offers unachievable ideology in place of an imperfect but accessible start towards the beginning of a solution. But this is not a book review.

click to enlarge

This post is based on Carbon Trading; How it works and why it fails, Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes, November 2009, Dag Hammarskjold Foundation.

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