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The Brave New World of Carbon Trading

  • Spash, Clive L.

Human induced climate change has become a prominent political issue, at both national and international levels, leading to the search for regulatory ‘solutions’. Emission trading has risen in popularity to become the most broadly favoured government strategy. Carbon permits have then quickly been developed as a serious financial instrument in markets turning over billions of dollars a year. In this paper, I show how the reality of permit market operation is far removed from the assumptions of economic theory and the promise of saving resources by efficiently allocating emission reductions. The pervasiveness of Greenhouse Gas emissions, strong uncertainty and complexity combine to prevent economists from substantiating their theoretical claims of cost effectiveness. Corporate power is shown to be a major force affecting emissions market operation and design. The potential for manipulation to achieve financial gain, while showing little regard for environmental or social consequences, is evident as markets have extended internationally and via trading offsets. At the individual level, there is the potential for emissions trading to have undesirable ethical and psychological impacts and to crowd out voluntary actions. I conclude that the focus on such markets is creating a distraction from the need for changing human behaviour, institutions and infrastructure.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 19114.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:19114
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  1. Bowles, Samuel & Hwang, Sung-Ha, 2008. "Social preferences and public economics: Mechanism design when social preferences depend on incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1811-1820, August.
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  3. Edmundo Claro, 2007. "Exchange Relationships and the Environment: The Acceptability of Compensation in the Siting of Waste Disposal Facilities," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 16(2), pages 187-208, May.
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  6. John C. Hause, 2006. "Offsetting Behavior and the Benefits of Safety Regulations," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(4), pages 689-698, October.
  7. Spash, Clive L. & Hanley, Nick, 1995. "Preferences, information and biodiversity preservation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 191-208, March.
  8. Clive L. Spash, 2006. "Non-Economic Motivation for Contingent Values: Rights and Attitudinal Beliefs in the Willingness To Pay for Environmental Improvements," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 82(4), pages 602-622.
  9. Clive L. Spash, 2000. "Ethical Motives and Charitable Contributions in Contingent Valuation: Empirical Evidence from Social Psychology and Economics," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 9(4), pages 453-479, November.
  10. Chernyavs'ka, Liliya & Gullì, Francesco, 2008. "Marginal CO2 cost pass-through under imperfect competition in power markets," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1-2), pages 408-421, December.
  11. Passey, Robert & MacGill, Iain & Outhred, Hugh, 2008. "The governance challenge for implementing effective market-based climate policies: A case study of The New South Wales Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 2999-3008, August.
  12. W.F. Butler & T.G. Acott, 2007. "An Inquiry Concerning the Acceptance of Intrinsic Value Theories of Nature," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 16(2), pages 149-168, May.
  13. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  14. Goodin, Robert E, 1994. "Selling Environmental Indulgences," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(4), pages 573-96.
  15. Grubb, M. & Neuhoff, K., 2006. "Allocation and competitiveness in the EU emissions trading scheme: policy overview," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0645, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  16. Ekelund, Robert Jr. & Hebert, Robert F. & Tollison, Robert D., 1992. "The economics of sin and redemption : Purgatory as a market-pull innovation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 1-15, September.
  17. Soman, Dilip, 2001. " Effects of Payment Mechanism on Spending Behavior: The Role of Rehearsal and Immediacy of Payments," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(4), pages 460-74, March.
  18. Thomas Traynor, 2003. "The impact of safety regulations on externalities," Atlantic Economic Journal, International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 31(1), pages 62-70, March.
  19. Adam Rose & Brandt Stevens & Jae Edmonds & Marshall Wise, 1998. "International Equity and Differentiation in Global Warming Policy," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 12(1), pages 25-51, July.
  20. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2002. "Why Social Preferences Matter -- The Impact of Non-Selfish Motives on Competition, Cooperation and Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages C1-C33, March.
  21. MacGill, Iain & Outhred, Hugh & Nolles, Karel, 2006. "Some design lessons from market-based greenhouse gas regulation in the restructured Australian electricity industry," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 11-25, January.
  22. Jon Skjærseth & Jørgen Wettestad, 2008. "Implementing EU emissions trading: success or failure?," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 275-290, September.
  23. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
  24. Spash, Clive L., 2000. "Ecosystems, contingent valuation and ethics: the case of wetland re-creation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 195-215, August.
  25. Spash, Clive L., 2007. "The economics of climate change impacts a la Stern: Novel and nuanced or rhetorically restricted?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 706-713, September.
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