Climate connections vs. carbon markets: assessing justice implications through a relational analytical framework

Authors: Brandon Derman*, University of Illinois Springfield
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Global Change, Political Geography
Keywords: climate justice, relational space, finance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Markets consist of exchange relations among buyers and sellers, which must reconcile the disparate spatiotemporal requirements of production and valorization. Accordingly, carbon markets have sought to link buyers and sellers across geopolitical boundaries, and to ensure the utility and comparability of the carbon commodities they construct. The flexibility and efficiency such accommodations are designed to enable, however, also distribute the benefits of emissions and austerities of mitigation both spatially and socially, tending to do so disproportionately. Potential injustices haunt climate finance more generally. Policies that monetize mitigation and adaptation bump up against the imperative of capital accumulation, power differences between participants, and the uneven social geographies of emissions and impacts. This paper introduces a conceptual framework through which to analyse coordinated responses to climate change, by examining their assumptions and practices in three categories, the relational processes within which participate in producing both climate change and climate injustice. I define socio-ecological, socio-spatial, and governmental relationalities, and argue that connections of each type may be recognized, constructed, elided, or eroded within arrangements of climate governance, with consequences for justice and effectiveness. Using this framework, I show how carbon markets are founded upon assumptions and practices that fail to account for some of the constitutive connections of climate change, constructing, instead, relations that have exacerbated injustice and delivered little in climate effectiveness. I then briefly examine “Robin Hood” tax proposals, considering how these financial instruments attempt to account for a greater range of the relations and processes driving climate change and injustice.​

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