Integrity of the emerging global markets in greenhouse gases

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This article considers the integrity of the emerging emissions allowance markets for greenhouse gases (GHG) under the international emissions trading system created by the Kyoto Protocol and the parallel European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. In particular, we suggest that accepted definitions of emissions baselines, initial allocation of emission credits, verification of "additionality" for GHG reduction beyond what would have occurred without trading, assuring permanence for offset-generating projects, preventing leakage of emissionsgenerating activities from protected project areas, monitoring, and reporting requirements are problematic. As with previous reforms that also rely on market allocation and expansion of private property rights, GHG trading deflects change in the social relations of production required for more sustainable production while commodifying access to the atmosphere and nature's ability to recycle carbon. Alternatives to this modern-day GHG indulgence system are considered, especially an upstream carbon tax, designed to force change in energy procurement and use. Although we found that most of the conditions required for the efficient operation of the international GHG markets are not being met thus far, further changes in the trading systems are being made. © 2010 by Association of American Geographers.

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Annals of the Association of American Geographers