Who Benefits from Market-Based Carbon Mitigation?

In: Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
Jeremiah Bohr Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Brian Dill Department of Sociology and the Center for African Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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As world leaders increasingly recognize the dual imperatives of mitigating carbon emissions and ensuring economic growth, emissions trading schemes have become popular policy options to pursue sustainable development goals. As the foremost program of sustainable development to date, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has held out hope that low-cost abatement in the global North could be achieved by channeling investments to the global South, creating a win-win situation of both mitigation and economic development. Unfortunately, the results of the CDM have shown an asymmetrical distribution of benefits in the global South despite contrary objectives. This paper argues that the investment climate promoted by the CDM excludes many developing nation markets from participation, thereby limiting one of the key benefits promised by CDM proponents. This is partly because the CDM encourages investors to seek projects that are doubly profitable, ones that demonstrate the potential to generate a profit independent of emissions credits, placing many nations at a structural disadvantage, as they are deemed too risky for sustainable development investment.

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