photo by Luther Blisset (Karen Eliot on Flickr Creative Commons)

Cap and trade or emissions trading schemes can be confusing. They have been touted as the chief market-based solution for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, preserving valuable natural resources like forests, while making money for rich and poor countries alike.

The far right and climate change skeptics hate them for obvious – and sometimes less obvious – reasons: they hate government meddling in the free market and regulating business and industry to the point that they believe in a vast ‘socialist’ conspiracy involving all prominent climate scientists. Or is it just a simple question of which class and which industries will make less money and pay more taxes and which are getting subsidies rather that the fact that subsidies exist at all?

But carbon trading schemes have also come under fire from serious environmentalists and those in favor of social justice, who are skeptical of their efficacy or about who ultimately profits from such emissions markets.

In the run-up to Copenhagen, Naomi Klein made her point against carbon trading quite clearly in an article penned for The Nation:

Climate-justice activists in Copenhagen will argue that, far from solving the climate crisis, carbon-trading represents an unprecedented privatization of the atmosphere, and that offsets and sinks threaten to become a resource grab of colonial proportions. Not only will these “market-based solutions” fail to solve the climate crisis, but this failure will dramatically deepen poverty and inequality, because the poorest and most vulnerable people are the primary victims of climate change—as well as the primary guinea pigs for these emissions-trading schemes.

Well, to the mixed satisfaction of all, cap and trade is waxing and waning in different parts of the world. The Obama-backed climate bill recently got shot down in the US Congress and there are doubts that any comprehensive carbon trading scheme will emerge in that country any time soon. China, on the other hand, is set to begin domestic carbon trading plans next year.

Europe already has the ECX (European Climate Exchange) whose website recently got hacked by some eco cyberwarriors called Decodcidio, part of the more direct-action oriented environmentalist group Earth First.

From a report in the Guardian:

Explaining the “carbon trade scam”, the spoof site decried how the EU’s flagship environmental policy is “susceptible to corporate lobbying,” offers industry “licences to pollute so they can continue business-as-usual,” and “generates outrageous profits for big industry polluters, investors in fraudulent offset projects [and] opportunist traders.”

You can view the spoof page here, which includes an embedded video of Annie Leonard’s ‘The Story of Cap and Trade’, which is alone worth a quick visit.

Additional resources:

Thomas Friedman – The news is we will regret messing with Mother Nature

Sandbag – China to introduce carbon market for power sector by 2011?

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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