IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Carbon trading: unethical, unjust and ineffective?


  • Simon Caney
  • Cameron Hepburn


Cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions are an important part of the climate change policies of the EU, Japan, New Zealand, among others, as well as China (soon) and Australia (potentially). However, concerns have been raised on a variety of ethical grounds about the use of markets to reduce emissions. For example, some people worry that emissions trading allows the wealthy to evade their responsibilities. Others are concerned that it puts a price on the natural environment. Concerns have also been raised about the distributional justice of emissions trading. Finally, some commentators have questioned the actual effectiveness of emissions trading in reducing emissions. This paper considers these three categories of objections � ethics, justice and effectiveness � through the lens of moral philosophy and economics. It is concluded that only the objections based on distributional justice can be sustained. This points to reform of the carbon market system, rather than its elimination.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Caney & Cameron Hepburn, 2011. "Carbon trading: unethical, unjust and ineffective?," GRI Working Papers 49, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  • Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp49

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric Neumayer & Fabian Barthel, 2010. "Normalizing economic loss from natural disasters: a global analysis," GRI Working Papers 31, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    2. Gilboa,Itzhak, 2009. "Theory of Decision under Uncertainty," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521517324, March.
    3. Gilboa, Itzhak & Postlewaite, Andrew & Schmeidler, David, 2009. "Is It Always Rational To Satisfy Savage'S Axioms?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(03), pages 285-296, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Spash, Clive L. & Theine, Hendrik, 2016. "Voluntary Individual Carbon Trading," SRE-Discussion Papers 5206, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
      • Clive L. Spash & Hendrik Theine, 2016. "Voluntary Individual Carbon Trading," SRE-Disc sre-disc-2016_04, Institute for Multilevel Governance and Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    2. repec:eee:appene:v:209:y:2018:i:c:p:8-19 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp49. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (The GRI Administration). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.