Carbon Credits

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critical currents
Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation Occasional Paper Series

Carbon Trading How it works and why it fails

no.7
November 2009

critical currents no.7 November 2009

Carbon Trading
How it works and why it fails

Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes

Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation Uppsala 2009

The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation pays tribute to the memory of the second Secretary General of the UN by searching for and examining workable alternatives for a socially and economically just, ecologically sustainable, peaceful and secure world. In the spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld’s integrity, his readiness to challenge the dominant powers and his passionate plea for the sovereignty of small nations and their right to shape their own destiny, the Foundation seeks to examine mainstream understanding of development and bring to the debate alternative perspectives of often unheard voices. By making possible the meeting of minds, experiences and perspectives through the organising of seminars and dialogues, the Foundation plays a catalysing role in the identification of new issues and the formulation of new concepts, policy proposals, strategies and work plans towards solutions. The Foundation seeks to be at the cutting edge of the debates on development, security and environment, thereby continuously embarking on new themes in close collaboration with a wide and constantly expanding international network.

Critical Currents is an Occasional Paper Series published by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. It is also available online at www.dhf.uu.se. This issue of Critical Currents is published in cooperation with Carbon Trade Watch (www.carbontradewatch.org), the Transnational Institute (www.tni.org) and The Corner House (www.thecornerhouse.org.uk). It is based on Carbon Trading: a critical conversation on climate change, privatization and power, edited by Larry Lohmann and published as Development Dialogue no. 47 in 2006. Statements of fact or opinion are those of the authors and do not imply endorsement by the Foundation. Manuscripts for review should be sent to secretariat@dhf.uu.se. Series editor: Henning Melber Editor: Larry Lohmann Coordination and final text editing: Wendy Davies Design & Production: Mattias Lasson Printed by X-O Graf Tryckeri AB ISSN 1654-4250 Copyright on the text is with the authors and the Foundation.

Preface
The Copenhagen process must address the reality of the larger eco-systems challenge we face. Healthy ecosystems are a precondition for stabilising the climate system. But the current negotiations are not addressing critical issues related to the resilience of ecosystems and to ecosystem services and are thus seriously flawed.1 During the autumn of 2006 the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, in collaboration with The Corner House and the Durban Group for Climate Justice, published a pioneering challenge to what had become the core of official international efforts to solve the ever more visible crisis concerning climate change and the urgent need to reduce emissions.2 Based to a large extent on the work of Larry Lohmann, the publication was at the forefront of a necessary intervention to demystify the dominant exit options on offer – which were only ending in another cul de sac. Since then, public awareness has become more sensitised to the problems of treating carbon trading as a ‘silver bullet’ for solving the climate crisis. Common sense should already suggest that things are not so simple: setting up a market in a new commodity is bound to be an invitation to traders to focus their ingenuity on profit-seeking even if the results undermine climatic stability. Our publication soon became a standard reference book, and we registered record hits on our website.3 The huge demand also resulted in a second imprint, after well over 10,000 hard copies had been distributed. On a more self-critical note, however, as necessary as the fundamental analysis was, the sizeable volume of 350 pages...
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