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The failure of Los Angeles' RECLAIM emission trading market in the summer of 2000 uncovers important issues that have direct relevance for the various systems now emerging for exchanging greenhouse gas credits. Two primary causes for the breakdown of RECLAIM are apparent. On the one hand, RECLAIM did not succeed because of a series of unpredictable events that included manipulation of the market by brokers and the California energy shortage. On the other hand, several potentially foreseeable program design flaws contributed to the failure. This study examines the structure of RECLAIM and concludes that there was sufficient resilience to endure the two unexpected crises. However, the problematic program design features created a market that was fatally flawed and, regardless of impinging circumstances, was ultimately bound to collapse. We also investigate the status of the rapidly developing international greenhouse gas market and identify several lessons from the RECLAIM experience: the need for a holistic approach to market design that includes the role of a bank, the interface with project-based credits, the similarities of the industries enrolled in the program, and need to carefully consider how to handle the problems caused by the end of the trading period.
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... Each year, each facility had to deliver enough RTCs to cover its NOx and SOx emissions, with each RTC being equivalent to a pound of emissions. Since inter-8 A market for VOCs was originally proposed by the SCAQMD but never materialized due to concerns with monitoring and environmental justice, as well as industry and environmental groups opposition (Thompson, 2000;Egelston and Cohen, 2004). ...
... Since the EPA never formally approved this mechanism for generating credits, its legality was questionable. Following lawsuits filed by local environmental justice organizations, eight out of nine firms that used MSERCs for compliance were penalized by agreeing to invest in further emissions reductions and environmental improvement projects (Egelston and Cohen, 2004). ...
Thesis
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Carbon trading, as a market-based climate policy that allows polluters to comply with emissions reductions commitments with tradable pollution rights, is presented by its proponents as the most cost-efficient alternative for climate change mitigation, while critics counter that the cost-efficiency argument ignores the harms that result from commodifying carbon. This thesis contributes to this debate, which is fundamental for the future of environmental policies, by exposing the social costs of carbon trading and making the case against its inclusion in the climate policy-mix. The argument developed here draws from theoretical contributions on the social costs of private activities and on value conflicts, as well as critical perspectives on the neoliberalization of nature and the limits of the market. Emissions trading was firstly proposed as an alternative to efficiency-maximizing or pigouvian environmental taxation. Based on the property rights approach to social costs, emissions trading would allow regulators to escape the impossible task of calculating the optimal level of pollution and offer instead a cost-efficient way to achieve an exogenously determined level of pollution. This theoretical shift would allow economics to be centred on discussing the best means to achieve given ends and relived it of discussing ends. The ends-means dichotomy, however, does not hold outside textbook economics, as well as the description of emissions trading as a simple and efficient alternative to direct regulation. As the US experience with emissions trading shows, creating markets for tradable pollution rights requires government investment in a regulatory apparatus that is no less complex than what is required for direct regulation or taxation. This experience also illustrates how the purported efficiency of emissions trading systems is a flip side of their weak environmental performance and their disregard for social justice and democratic participation. Carbon trading schemes created under the Kyoto Protocol raise additional problems. Compared to “cap and trade” schemes based on a single pollutant and a restricted number of sources, schemes like the EU Emissions Trading System are more complex and require further government intervention. Furthermore, flexibility instruments like the Clean Development Mechanism allow industrialized countries to pollute beyond their emissions commitments and raise issues with the disputable integrity of methodologies that account for emissions reductions from offset projects relative to an arbitrary baseline. The dismal performance of these schemes is illustrated by their inability to provide an incentive to decarbonization, while distributing rents to polluters and creating new sources of corruption. These issues are not reducible to discussions on accounting procedures and other technicalities. Opening the “black box” of carbon quantification and commensuration reveals that its calculations sideline relevant uncertainties and assume a degree of accuracy that scientific knowledge and technology cannot deliver in the present. Yet, since accounting for emissions increases or reductions requires political decisions on what is to be accounted for, what is the relevant metric and what is an acceptable degree of uncertainty, further scientific and technological developments are not enough to make it possible to produce the unambiguous numbers that carbon trading requires. Going further on the discussion of the implications of carbon commensuration and abstraction, this thesis presents an argument against the inclusion of carbon trading in the climate policy-mix based on four normative critiques. With the support of critical literature, it is argued that carbon trading is ineffective, undemocratic, unjust and unethical and that, for these reasons, it can only be considered as a cost-effective policy when its social costs are ignored. An argument against carbon trading reformism is then presented by illustrating how trying to mitigate the negative effects of carbon markets by imposing restrictions on trading leads to the erosion of these markets. A better alternative is claimed to be supporting climate policies that foster a plurality of values and deliver social benefits. The thesis concludes by advocating a shift in the climate policy debate to a discussion on the values that are fostered or hindered by each policy. A general framework is proposed that respects value pluralism and acknowledges conflicts between incommensurable values, which is not compatible with market-based policies.
... Non-binding targets could also provide incentives for developing country participation. In particular, non-binding country-specific sectoral baselines could be attractive to developing 12 See Ellerman and Wing 2003, Pizer 2005, Dudek and Golub 2003 Egelston and Cohen 200514 See Philibert 2000, Bodansky 2004, Grubb 2004, Philibert et al. 2003 countries seeking to attract major investments in clean technology that fit with their sustainable development priorities, for sectors and sources where a project-based mechanism is less applicable. ...
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