Analysing Carbon Markets as Instituted Processes of Exchange

 John Broderick, Tyndall Centre

 Markets are not natural, in the sense that they are pre-existent and external to society, neither do they arise spontaneously, nor are they reducible to a set of rules or logics, nor do they exist in a social void. Rather they are particular social institutions, for the exchange and distribution of goods and services, configured by the society in which they exist and a result of its historical development. Indeed, a great deal of effort is required to implement a market, defining, formatting and stabilising the norms, regulations, actors and commodities that will constitute it.

My work explores a number of ways in which the burgeoning “carbon markets”, EU ETS, CDM and voluntary, are instituted in society and how their operation alters the use energy. The theoretical basis is drawn from economic sociology (after Polanyi, Harvey and Randles) highlighting the specifically economic processes of production, exchange, distribution and consumption. These new market institutions overlay a range of existing social and political processes, and I will explore their specific consequences in three cases; the market for voluntary offset credits, the entry of aviation into the EU ETS and the interaction between carbon markets and renewable electricity supply. This presentation will focus on the first case and explore the co-production of the market between buying and selling agents and the tensions that exist between uniformity, “a tonne is a tonne is a tonne” for well mixed long lived greenhouse gases, and differentiation in the commodity being exchanged.

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