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‘Fixing’ the climate crisis: Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India

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The paper analyzes dynamics of accumulation and displacement in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). It combines the theoretical work of David Harvey and James O’Connor with a case study of the Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited HFC-23 destruction project in Gujarat, India. The framework is used to connect the factors driving opportunities for capital accumulation in the CDM market with the causes of social and ecological dislocation at the local project level. We argue that the CDM is a spatial fix to the ecological crisis of climate change which secures conditions of production for fossil fuel industries and promotes new sites of accumulation for other companies. The political–economic ‘fix’ is dependent on ‘fixing’ a global sociospatial divide between developed and developing countries down to ‘fixed’ projects at the local level. This spatial fix facilitates a displacement of the costs of responding to the climate crisis from North to South.
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Environment and Planning A 2015, volume 47, pages 000 000
doi:10.1068/a130213p
‘Fixing’ the climate crisis: capital, states, and carbon
offsetting in India
Gareth Bryant
Department of Political Economy, School of Social and Political Sciences,
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia;
e-mail: gareth.bryant@sydney.edu.au
Siddhartha Dabhi
Ecology, Environment and Sustainable Development at the Tata Institute of Social
Sciences, Guwahati 781 001, India; e-mail: siddhartha.dabhi@gmail.com
Steffen Böhm
Essex Sustainability Institute, Essex Business School, University of Essex,
Colchester CO4 3SQ, England; e-mail: steffen@essex.ac.uk
Received 23 September 2013; in revised form 23 April 2014; published online 22 January
2014
Abstract. The paper analyzes dynamics of accumulation and displacement in the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM). It combines the theoretical work of David Harvey
and James O’Connor with a case study of the Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited HFC-23
destruction project in Gujarat, India. The framework is used to connect the factors driving
opportunities for capital accumulation in the CDM market with the causes of social and
ecological dislocation at the local project level. We argue that the CDM is a spatial fix to
the ecological crisis of climate change which secures conditions of production for fossil
fuel industries and promotes new sites of accumulation for other companies. The political–
economic ‘fix’ is dependent on ‘fixing’ a global sociospatial divide between developed and
developing countries down to ‘fixed’ projects at the local level. This spatial fix facilitates a
displacement of the costs of responding to the climate crisis from North to South.
Keywords: Clean Development Mechanism, carbon offset, spatial fix, CDM, climate
crisis
Introduction
Critical researchers have analyzed the ‘new carbon economy’ according to political economic
interests that underpin market-based mechanisms (Bailey and Wilson, 2009). Bumpus and
Liverman (2008) and Matthews and Paterson (2005) explain the dominance of emissions
trading and carbon offsetting schemes in international climate policy in terms of state support
for capital accumulation. They argue that carbon markets provide opportunities for the
accumulation of capital in the carbon trading industry and protect the profits of fossil fuel
industries by allowing them to avoid costly emission reductions.
The socioecological outcomes of protecting and promoting capital accumulation in this
way have also been the subject of extensive criticism. Lohmann (2010, page 238) identifies
a disjuncture between carbon offsets as units of “climate action” and the urgent need to
create a historical pathway away from fossil fuel dependence. Bachram (2004, page 10)
concludes that the expropriation of Southern nature through offsetting markets constitutes
“carbon colonialism” at the expense of the people and ecosystems affected by offsetting
projects. Case studies collected by Lohmann (2006), Böhm and Dabhi (2009), and Ghosh and
Sahu (2011) show that offset projects have repeatedly dispossessed communities from their
land and polluted local environments. The result has been the entrenchment or exacerbation
2 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
of existing class (Vlachou and Konstantinidis, 2010), race, gender (Bond, 2007), regional
(Corbera and Brown, 2010), and global (Böhm et al, 2012) inequalities, which would need to
be confronted in any effective and just response to climate change.
This paper contributes to the growing body of literature on the political economy of
carbon markets by analyzing the most extensive international carbon offsetting instrument:
the United Nations (UN) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Together with Emissions
Trading and Joint Implementation, the CDM is one of the three ‘flexibility mechanisms’
in the Kyoto Protocol. It promotes the development of carbon pollution reduction projects
such as hydroelectric dams and industrial gas destruction factories in developing countries.
The official purpose of the instrument is twofold: to produce carbon credits known as
Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) for developed countries to use in accordance with
their emission reduction requirements under the Kyoto Protocol and to promote ‘sustainable
development’ in the South (UNFCCC, 1997, page 11). This paper responds to the empirical
and theoretical agenda suggested by Bumpus and Liverman (2008) in their “accumulation
by decarbonization” thesis by developing a theoretical framework based on the work of
O’Connor (1998) and Harvey (1982). The framework is used to explain the socioecological
and political economic outcomes generated in one industrial gas destruction CDM project in
western India.
First, Bumpus and Liverman (2008, pages 148–149) suggest there is a need for “further
theoretical work on the commodification of carbon [and] the spatial relations of emissions
trading.” They put forward Harvey’s ‘spatial fix’ as one possible theoretical understanding of
the CDM because “in organizing costly emission reductions through a geographic expansion
of markets [offsetting] parallels other ways that capital avoids economic crises”
(Bumpus and Liverman, 2008, page 134), but the argument is then not developed further.
Bond (2012) also makes a limited conceptual reference to carbon offsetting as a spatial fix to
suggest parallels between carbon offsetting and the history of waste displacement from North
to South. In 1992, former World Bank Chief Economist Larry Summers exemplified this
history in a leaked memo that stated Africa was “vastly under-polluted”—an economic logic
that is replicated in the search for ‘least cost’ emissions reductions in the CDM. This paper
deepens existing theoretical analyses of the CDM that emphasize dynamics of accumulation
and displacement by combining Harvey’s notion of the ‘spatial fix’ and O’Connor’s
development of Marx’s conception of the ‘conditions of production’.
Second, Bumpus and Liverman (2008, page 148) identify the need for “detailed empirical
studies of carbon reductions in particular places and through different networks and value
chains.” Existing empirical studies have focused on the role of different combinations of
local communities, project developers, associated carbon trading industries, national states,
and international agreements in shaping the outcomes of individual CDM projects (Boyd,
2009; Bumpus, 2011; Corbera and Brown, 2010; Lansing, 2010; Yamane, 2009). However,
they have not analyzed how CDM projects relate to global carbon markets by considering
their particular links with fossil fuel industries in the North through the exchange of CERs.
This paper addresses this gap with a detailed case study of the Gujarat Fluorochemicals
Limited (GFL) HFC-23 destruction project in Gujarat, India, which connects the factors
driving opportunities for capital accumulation in the CDM market with the causes of social
and ecological dislocation at the project level.
The structure of the paper proceeds as follows. The next section is a theoretical discussion
on how Harvey’s concept of the spatial fix can be used to understand the development
and operation of the CDM by drawing on O’Connor’s understanding of ecological crisis and
the conditions of production. The GFL case-study section documents the commodity
networks engendered by the project involving direct project participants, financial actors
in secondary markets, states, and polluting companies as well as its negative impacts on the
Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India 3
local environment and the health and livelihoods of local communities. The paper concludes
by bringing together the empirical data and theoretical framework. We argue that the CDM is
a spatial fix to the ecological crisis of climate change, which secures production conditions
for the fossil fuel industry and promotes new sites for accumulation for other companies
by displacing the costs of responding to the climate crisis from North to South. It also
considers recent developments in the CDM market including the collapse of offset prices
and new restrictions on the HFC-23 project type through the contradictions of the CDM as
accumulation strategy (Smith, 2006).
Theorizing the CDM
Ecological crisis, conditions of production, and the spatial fix
Harvey’s (1982, page 424) ‘third cut’ at crisis theory identifies the spatial fix as a critical
strategy used by states and capital to temporarily overcome crises of overaccumulation.
These crises develop when the internal contradictions of capitalism undermine opportunities
for the profitable realization of surplus value. Spatial fixes rely on “geographical expansion,
spatial reorganization and uneven geographical development” to produce spaces and scales
that restore conditions for capital accumulation and defer the devaluation of capital (Harvey,
1995, page 2). However, spatial fixes often amount to a displacement of crisis due to both
the immediate social dislocation caused by the initial reconfiguration and the inevitable
reproduction of the same crisis tendencies (Harvey, 2003, page 117).
O’Connor (1998) extends the Marxist theory of overaccumulation crisis arising from the
‘first contradiction’ between capital and labor to ecological concerns. The formulation begins
with the contention that capitalism has a tendency to materially degrade or ‘underproduce’
its natural (and spatial and personal) conditions of production which are not wholly produced
by capital and therefore secured by the state (O’Connor, 1998, pages 164–167). This
‘second contradiction’ between capital and nature creates the possibility of the formation of
ecological crises. Such crises manifest as economic costs to capital and capitalist states if the
use values of nature are sufficiently impaired and/or social contestation over degradation of
nature is sufficiently strong to create a barrier to accumulation (O’Connor, 1998, page 242;
Rosewarne, 1997, page 112).
Like Harvey, O’Connor (1998, pages 167–168) identifies a number of strategies that
states and capital have developed in order to temporarily resolve ecological crises including
technological fixes and environmental regulation. Of particular interest to the analysis of the
CDM as a spatial fix is O’Connor’s (1998, page 167) contention that these strategies attempt
to “restructure production conditions with the aim of raising profits”, which implies a spatial
element to crisis-induced changes in social relations with nature (emphasis added). Harvey’s
spatial fix could therefore provide a useful way of addressing O’Connor’s underdevelopment
of the relationship between nature and space as conditions of production.
However, O’Connor’s theory has been criticized for having a dualist ontological basis
that posits a separation between capital and nature. Indeed, Harvey (1996, pages 146–147)
has placed O’Connor’s work within a Marxist reversion to “ecoscarcity and natural limits”
analysis which treats nature as an “axiomatic limiting condition of human existence.”
Harvey’s (1982, chapters 12 and 13) emphasis on the reconfiguration of built environments
in spatial fixes demonstrates that the production of nature is central to his understanding
of economic crisis. Conversely, O’Connor’s thesis is organized in terms of an “epic” clash
between the separate economic and ecological spheres of capitalism and the environment
(Castree, 2002, pages 124–125).
Despite the dualistic presentation, O’Connor’s (1998, chapter 7) development of Marx’s
conception of the conditions of production as productive forces and social relations of
production reveals an ontology of nature that is substantively compatible with Harvey’s.
4 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
As social relations, natural conditions are “produced and reproduced (or made accessible)
within definite property, legal and social relationships” (O’Connor, 1998, page 148).
Through this lens, the widespread introduction of fossil fuel combustion as a productive
force in 19th-century industry was necessitated by capitalist social relations impelling labor
productivity improvements and the creation of a flexible and disposable workforce (Huber,
2009). The resulting (second) contradiction between capital and the climate system, which
like fossil fuel is also a condition of production, is therefore a product of a historically
specific manifestation of the (first) contradiction where capital has replaced labor power
with greenhouse gas emissions. In this way, ecological crises, such as climate change, are
a “specifically capitalist scarcity whereby capital creates its own barrier (or limit?)”
(O’Connor, 1998, page 159).
The question mark on the nature of challenge posed by ecological crisis to capital reflects
uncertainty over whether it will result in barriers to accumulation or opportunities for profit.
The answer is always mediated by political contestation over the social regulation of nature
between capital, social movements, and the state (O’Connor, 1998, page 165). O’Connor’s
focus on the concrete political economic factors shaping the course of ecological crises
provides the framework needed to apply the concept of spatial fix, which Harvey originally
developed in relation to overaccumulation crises, to climate politics and the CDM.
The CDM as spatial ‘fix’
The CDM can be understood as a spatial fix to the ecological crisis of climate change
by considering both meanings of ‘fix’ identified by Harvey. The first is the metaphorical
meaning of ‘a fix’ as a temporary resolution, and the second is the material idea of spatial
‘fixity’ (Harvey, 2003, page 115). In the metaphorical sense the CDM is a spatial ‘fix’
for capital to avoid the potential costs of climate policy. The disruption of the climate
system—a condition of production in the form of a carbon sink—will raise costs for many
forms of capitalist production and cause social dislocation (Stern, 2007). In the short term,
though, most potential costs to business from climate change come in responses to these
material impacts in the form of social regulation of the climate. This is because stringent
and enforced restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions could politically deprive fossil-fuel-
dependent capital of the energy source that Malm (2013, page 51) describes as “the general
lever for surplus-value production”. The fix which secured continued access to fossil fuels
and carbon sinks as conditions of production for Northern capital was the product of the
institutionalization of international political contestation between states, capital, and social
movements at UN climate negotiations.
At the time of the Kyoto climate conference in 1997 the political position of Northern
corporations with varying economic interests in fossil fuels and climate policy was mixed.
They ranged from outright opposition to mandatory action from the Global Climate Coalition
representing fossil fuel interests, to calls for ‘flexibility’ from the International Climate Change
Partnership representing mainly manufacturers, to support for green technology opportunities
from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (Levy and Egan, 1998, page 346). The
demands of climate movements were similarly variegated. However, the larger environmental
NGOs from both North and South were brought together under the umbrella of the Climate
Action Network (CAN), which called for binding and domestic reductions of 20% by 2005
for developed countries and opposed emissions trading (Betsill, 2002, page 53). The Kyoto
Protocol included elements of each of these positions. The 5% overall emission reduction cap
from 1990 levels by 2012 was binding but of a lower magnitude and slower timetable than
demanded by CAN. The US government subsequently adopted the ‘do nothing’ approach
exemplified by the Global Climate Coalition by not ratifying the agreement but not before
Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India 5
securing the inclusion of the CDM as a ‘flexibility mechanism’ for achieving the Kyoto
targets (Grubb et al, 1999, pages 102–103).
The CDM provides flexibility for capital by restructuring the geographical management
of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sinks. It builds on the general sociospatial divide
between developed and developing countries at UN climate conferences—codified as
Annex I and non-Annex I countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change—to create an external space in the South where carbon sink capacity can be
produced and an internal space in the North where carbon sink capacity can be consumed.
Like spatial fixes to crises of overaccumulation that use external territories to overcome
immediate social constraints, the CDM allows Northern capital to draw on abstract carbon
sink capacity produced in developing countries to offset their continued use of material
carbon sinks as conditions of production. Similarly, the fix also aims to support profit rates by
protecting fossil fuel industries against costly emission reductions and promoting economic
opportunities for a range of financial, green technology, and other industries involved in the
production and trading of abstract carbon sinks as CERs.
The ‘fixity’ component of the spatial fix refers to tensions between the need to
geographically ‘fix’ spatial configurations and physical infrastructure and the drag of this
produced space and nature on the mobility of capital in future spatial fixes (Harvey, 2001,
page 25; see also Brenner, 1998; Smith, 2008). The spatial fix for Northern capital is thus
dependent on the differentiation of global space into ‘fixed’ internal and external spaces.
This requirement for spatial fixity goes down to the local level of material and often large-
scale projects ‘fixed’ in particular places in the South, which ‘reduce’ emissions instead of
Northern corporations with similarly immobile fossil fuel infrastructure.
Fixing projects in places that have made a smaller contribution to historical greenhouse
gas emissions than the North is justified by the reductionist idea that it is immaterial
where, how, and by whom a tonne of carbon is emitted (Lohmann, 2012). Carbon trading
overcomes this tension by abstracting from the social dimensions of climate change using
the singular measure of the quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted or reduced from
a socially constructed future scenario to calculate the production of carbon sinks. Abstract
CERs spatially integrate the factories, mines, and farms registered as CDM projects with
Northern governments that have Kyoto obligations and EU Emissions Trading System
(ETS) installations. The geographical space between producers and consumers of carbon
sink capacity also becomes a condition of production for the many carbon market service
providers that facilitate CER commodity networks. The following section analyses and
unpacks the socioecological relations engendered by the spatial fix through a case study of
one project: the GFL HFC-23 destruction plant in Gujarat, India.
Case study: HFC-23 destruction in Gujarat, India
The GFL HFC-23 destruction project became the first CDM project when the CDM Executive
Board registered it in 2005. Based in the Indian state of Gujarat, the factory’s primary activity
prior to involvement in the CDM was the production of the refrigerant gas HCFC-22 (GFL,
2003, page 14). The production of HCFC-22 results in the creation of the HFC-23 byproduct
which has been designated with a global warming potential of 11 700 by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, meaning 1 tonne of HFC-23 gas makes the equivalent contribution
to global warming over 100 years as 11 700 tons of carbon dioxide (IPCC, 2007, page 212).
The company ‘reduces’ greenhouse gas emissions and therefore produces CER offsets by
destroying HFC-23 with thermal oxidation technology (GFL, 2003, page 8). The high global
warming potential of HFC-23 has enabled the GFL project to produce a disproportionately
large quantity of CERs. As of 1 December 2014 the single project had been issued with
55.87 million CERs, representing 4% of the total 1 billion-plus CERs issued to the 7579
6 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
registered projects globally and 28% of CERs issued to India’s 1535 registered projects
(UNEP DTU, 2013).
Evidence of “gaming and abuse” of CDM rules by GFL’s project developers and many of
the other twenty-one registered HFC destruction projects, which had produced 35% of all
CERs issued in the CDM by 1 December 2014, led the European Commission to ban all CERs
from HFC-23 projects in the EU ETS from 2013 (Carbon Market Watch, 2010; European
Commission, 2011; UNEP DTU, 2013). The GFL project has also come under prior media,
activist, and academic scrutiny for its poor local record (Centre for Science and Environment,
2005a; Counter Review, 2013; Dabhi, 2009; Ghouri, 2009; Lohmann, 2006; Rosenthal,
2012; Rosenthal and Lehren, 2012; Sutter and Parreño, 2007). The large quantity of offsets
produced by the GFL project and its widely documented local impacts provide significant
empirical scope to examine the relationship between the accumulation opportunities along
CER commodity networks and the socioecological impacts documented in this and many
other offsetting projects (Böhm and Dabhi, 2009; Ghosh and Sahu, 2011; Lohmann, 2006).
The analysis in the case study is progressed using a range of primary and secondary
qualitative and quantitative evidence. Documents from the UN and company reports show
that the project has created highly profitable commodity networks for GFL and other CDM
market actors. Publicly available EU ETS compliance data show that the project has also
provided a successful political–economic fix for Northern capital. Fossil-fuel-intensive
corporations have surrendered a considerable quantity of CERs produced by GFL under the
EU ETS to cover excess carbon pollution and have used the credits for ‘green’ marketing
purposes. However, our observations from field visits to the GFL site and surrounding villages
and interviews with the people who live in them, as well as with GFL workers and activists
from a Gujarati NGO, indicate the project is linked to the pollution of the environment and
has damaged the health and livelihoods of the local community.(1) The interviews were
informal and nonrecorded due to the social and political volatility that surrounds the project
but supported by media reports and government documents.
Social and ecological dislocation
The GFL plant is located in Ranjitnagar village, part of Ghoghamba Taluka in the Panchmahal
District of the state of Gujarat. In total, 18 273 people live in 3253 households in ten poor
and rural villages within about 6 km of the project (Government of India, 2011a).(2) 2011
Indian Census information reveals that 75% of the working population in these villages
are engaged in agriculture (Government of India, 2011a; 2011b). The majority of these are
‘cultivators’, meaning they farm their own privately or collectively owned land, rather than
being employed as ‘agricultural laborers’. The proportion of cultivators is higher than the
rural average for India and indicates the importance of access to decent quality land for these
communities’ livelihoods (Government of India, 2011a; 2011b). There is also a very high
proportion of people from the historically disadvantaged Scheduled Tribe groups at 56%
compared with a national average of 11% in rural areas (Government of India, 2011a; 2011b).
The low literacy rate of 52% (the rural average for India is 68%) is a useful proxy for the
low human development in the villages, which have inadequate public education, health, and
sanitation infrastructure (Government of India, 2011a; 2011b).
GFL has had a history of conflict with the local communities since the plant opened in
1989 (Rosenthal, 2012). The production of HCFC-22 is a prerequisite for the destruction
of HFC-23 and therefore cannot be separated from the impacts of the CDM project.
(1) Dates of fieldwork were 22 March–15 April 2008 and 7–10 April 2010. Data collected were
consistent across both stages.
(2) Virapura, Dudhapura, Rinchhiya, Rayan Mavuda, Chelavada, Nathkuva, Kankodakoi, Jitpura,
Chadranagar. Interviews were conducted in the latter four and Ranjitnagar.
Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India 7
Its production is a polluting and potentially toxic activity in its own right when its hazardous
feed stocks (such as chloroform and sulfuric acid) and wastes are not treated and disposed
of properly (GFL, 2003; US Environmental Protection Agency, 2000). HCFC-22 is also
a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 1500 and an ozone-depleting
substance listed for phase-out under the Montreal Protocol (IPCC, 2007, page 212). In 1996
community members were assisted by the Gujarati environmental organization Paryavaran
Mitra in taking GFL to the Gujarat High Court over air and water pollution that they alleged
was caused by the dumping of hazardous wastes.(3) The court action was unsuccessful but
local activists have continued to oppose the plant. For example, in 2005 an explosion in a
tanker at the plant caused an oleum (sulfuric acid) leak, which local community members
claim resulted in fifty hospital admissions (NDTV, 2006). In response, a protest at the GFL
site resulted in eighty-four arrests (Ghouri, 2009; Rosenthal, 2012). Community members we
interviewed informed us that twenty were detained for over a month and some were issued
with court orders that exclude them from areas close to the GFL plant.
This social and ecological dislocation has been maintained and in some ways exacerbated
by the addition of CDM project activities. GFL destroys HFC-23 by capturing rather than
venting the gas and incinerating it at high temperatures in a thermal oxidation chamber (GFL,
2003, page 8). The goal of the process is to convert HFC-23 into carbon dioxide and water.
However, the GFL project design document (PDD) lists numerous other substances that are
used in, or are byproducts, of the incineration that are potentially hazardous to humans and/or
the environment (US Department of Labor, 2014). The PDD states the thermal incineration
process creates hydrochloric acid and hydrogen fluoride, results in the release of carbon
monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide, and uses caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and
hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) (GFL, 2003, page 9). It also produces greenhouse gas
emissions through the combustion of liquefied petroleum gas at the site and the purchase
of fossil-fuel-powered electricity from the grid (GFL, 2003, page 9). The PDD states these
chemicals are recycled, recovered, or treated through venting, scrubbing, and cooling (GFL,
2003, pages 19–21). However, activists we interviewed from Paryavaran Mitra claim that
GFL’s history of discharging chemicals into the air, water, and land around the plant has
continued with the CDM project activities.
Results of tests of groundwater in the local area by the Department of Drinking Water
Supply are consistent with pollution created by the production of HCFC-22 and the destruction
of HFC-23. Wells in Ranjitnagar and five of the nine villages surrounding the GFL plant
recorded fluoride concentrations classified as “above permissible levels” at up to 7.97 mg/l
in tests carried out between April 2009 and April 2011 (Government of India, 2011c).(4) At
low levels fluoride can have positive impacts for dental health, but drinking water containing
over 3 mg/l of fluoride can cause skeletal fluorosis (World Health Organization, 2004,
page 5). The villages of Ranjitnagar and Nathvuka also recorded “above permissible levels”
of chloride at up to 1344 mg/l and 4424 mg/l in tests carried out on 9 March 2011 and 6 May
2009, respectively (Government of India, 2011c). Chloride toxicity can occur in crops when
chloride concentrations exceed tolerance levels, causing burning and drying of leaves (Food
and Agriculture Organization, 1985). The presence of chloride in water is not harmful to
human health, but is an indicator for industrial waste (World Health Organization, 2003,
page 2).
(3) Andarsingh Mangalsingh Parmar and Udaisingh Mohanbhai Baria vs Gujarat Fluorochemicals
Limited, State of Gujarat, The Chairman Gujarat Pollution Control Board, The Chairman Gujarat
Industrial Development Corporation and The Chairman Gujarat Electricity Board (Special Civil
Application No. 5280 of 1995).
(4) Water samples from Jitpura, Virapura, Dudhapura, Rinchhiya, and Rayan Mavuda.
8 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
Problems with human health and agricultural production in the villages surrounding the
project are consistent with the impacts of the pollutants present in the water supply that are
involved in GFL’s original and CDM activities: oily films on the water and white crusts on
the soil that can be observed in the vicinity of the project (see also Ghouri, 2009). As a result
of this pollution, local farmers we interviewed claimed to have suffered from a reduction in
the productivity, quality, and absolute yields of corn, cotton, and rice in recent years. They
said mango and papaya had also become particularly prone to rapid decay (see also NDTV,
2006). Local community members told us that they were suffering from endemic eye and
skin conditions such as skin pigmentation disorders, rashes and eye irritation, joint pains,
and decreased fertility (see also Rosenthal, 2012). People we interviewed strongly asserted
that pollution released from the GFL plant was to blame for these problems.
The negative impacts of the GFL project on the local community have not been offset by
the benefits promised by the project developers in the PDD, despite some local community
members reporting that local air quality had improved following the reduction in HFC-23
venting. The PDD promised employment for thirty to forty mostly unskilled workers in the
operation of the HFC-23 destruction plant (GFL, 2003, page 57). However, local community
members and GFL workers told us that many of the additional jobs had bypassed the local
community in favor of lower paid workers from the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The company’s promise to spend 70 million Indian rupees (US $1.13 million) on ‘sustainable
development’ over the course of the project has also not materialized (GFL, 2003, page 83).(5)
Local farmers told us that GFL had been supplying them with two bags of urea and one
bag of diammonium phosphate fertilizer each monsoon. However, it requires continually
increasing quantities and has been prone to steep price rises, exposing farmers to a potentially
unsustainable situation once the GFL project ceases (Mukherjee, 2011). Community members
told us that, rather than engaging with them on community development initiatives, GFL has
employed a strategy of offering money to individual protest leaders in return for silence.
Almost halfway through the ten-year project crediting period we found no evidence for any
of the other promises made in the PDD, such as improved sanitation services, being fulfilled
by the company (GFL, 2003, page 83).
Protecting fossil fuel industries and promoting accumulation
The economic benefits from the GFL project for actors other than the local community can be
documented throughout the various CER commodity networks engendered by destruction of
HFC-23. GFL, the project developer and owner of the plant, has been the primary financial
beneficiary of the project. Revenue from the sale of CERs following CDM registration has
significantly increased the profitability of GFL.(6) Multiple annual reports following CDM
registration state “the sale of carbon credits to European buyers has added a healthy revenue
stream to your company’s operating results” (eg, GFL, 2006, page 6). GFL increased its total
profit by 150% in 2006/07, its first year of CDM trading, by selling 3.9 billion Indian rupees
(US $62.97 million) worth of CERs. Revenue from CER sales went from zero prior to CDM
project status to an average of 46% of total sales between 2006/07 and 2012/13, which more
than supplemented revenue from the production of refrigerant gases and demonstrated the
effective integration of CER and other forms of commodity production (see table 1). Figures
in the company’s annual reports, reproduced in table 1 and figure 1, show that revenue
remained steady or increased in the years until 2010/11 when global carbon prices dropped.
Perversely, revenue and profits increased in 2011/12 following the decision by the European
(5) All exchange rates from http://www.xe.com and accurate 1 December 2014, with US $1 = Rs.
61.93 = €80.08.
(6) A small proportion of GFL revenue (from the issuance and sale of 100 000 CERs) derives from two
other wind farm CDM projects operated by GFL in the states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India 9
Commission to ban HFC-23 CERs in the EU ETS from 2013, corresponding with a general
trend of European companies rushing to surrender CERs from industrial gas projects while
they still could (BusinessGreen, 2012). However, the decision led to a fall in carbon credit
revenue to just $0.1 million in 2013/14.
The profitability of GFL’s CDM operations can be attributed to low initial capital and
operating costs compared with average 2012 CER futures prices of €10.90 (US $13.61)
during the second phase of the EU ETS between 2008 and 2012 (Intercontinental
Exchange, 2014). The total investment in thermal oxidation technology was estimated at
Table 1. Nominal Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited financial results, 2002–13 (GFL, 2014).
Financial
year
Revenue from CER
sales (US $ million)
Total sales income
(US $ million)
CER as % of total
sales income
Profit after taxation
(US $ million)
2002/03 0.0 22.3 0.0 6.2
2003/04 0.0 25.3 0.0 9.5
2004/05 0.0 28.7 0.0 8.1
2005/06 0.0 30.3 0.0 17.7
2006/07 63.0 94.0 67.0 44.5
2007/08 73.3 119.9 61.1 58.9
2008/09 101.6 173.0 58.7 62.7
2009/10 76.4 162.5 47.0 61.5
2010/11 32.7 164.3 19.9 47.9
2011/12 141.5 343.6 41.2 138.9
2012/13 71.3 270.8 26.3 73.4
2013/14 0.1 197.0 0.05 13.7
Note. CER—Certified Emission Reduction.
400
Total other
sales income
(US $ million)
Revenue from
CER sales
(US $ million)
Profit after
taxation
(US $ million)
350
300
250
200
150
100
50
0
2002/03
2003/04
2004/05
2005/06
2006/07
2007/08
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
2011/12
2012/13
2013/14
Figure 1. Nominal Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited financial results, 2002–13 (GFL, 2014).
10 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
only 130 million Indian rupees (US $2.1 million) and the process of destroying HFC-23
is estimated at costing only US $0.50 per tonne of carbon dioxide-equivalent (Centre for
Science and Environment, 2005b; Schwank, 2004). GFL has reinvested its profits from the
sale of CERs to expand its chemicals businesses through the commissioning and construction
of new caustic soda/chlorine, chloromethane, and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, commonly
known as Teflon) plants and internal electricity generation capacity as well as to other
industries including renewable energy and cinemas through its subsidiaries Inox Wind and
Inox Leisure. It was reported to have leveraged CER revenues to finance a capital expenditure
program in these areas that would increase its asset base by five-fold (CRISIL, 2013; Money
Times 2014). Figure 1 shows that, while these investments contributed to revenues from
GFL’s chemicals business remaining relatively strong following the end of the CER business,
profit levels were not sustained.
In addition to GFL, there are a number of project participants, primarily based in the
Global North, that have gained financially from their direct involvement in the GFL project.
The technology used to destroy HFC-23 was supplied by UK company Ineos Fluor Limited,
which received a portion of the CERs produced in return (GFL, 2003, page 11). Between 2008
and 2012 three installations based in the UK, Germany, and Norway,(7) owned by chemicals
manufacturer Ineos Group, which owned Ineos Fluor until 2010, surrendered 45 249 CERs
produced by GFL for compliance purposes under the EU ETS (European Commission, 2013).(8)
Sumitomo Corporation received another portion of GFL CERs in return for maintenance
carried out by Daikin Industries on the plant (GFL, 2003, page 12). The Japanese company
justified its role in GFL and other CDM projects as being designed to meet Japan’s Kyoto
Protocol targets and has used GFL CERs to market air conditioner filters as “carbon neutral”
(Sumitomo Corporation, 2005, page 29; 2010). Three private consultancy firms have provided
fee-based services to the project including the Mumbai office of PricewaterhouseCoopers,
which prepared the PDD; SGS United Kingdom, which validated the project; and DNV Climate
Services Denmark, which verified the emission reductions (GFL, 2003, page 1; UNEP DTU,
2014). The Government of India approved the project as meeting its sustainable development
guidelines and has gained additional taxation revenue from GFL by subjecting CER sales to a
30% corporate tax rate (BS Reporter, 2010). Dutch banking corporation Rabobank has acted
as a mediator between GFL and the Government of the Netherlands in the purchase of CERs
in line with the latter’s Kyoto obligations (GFL, 2003, page 12).
Beyond the immediate project participants the CERs produced by the GFL have benefited
other financial institutions that trade in secondary carbon markets (figure 2). For example,
the London office of carbon broker Natsource Tullett brokered a deal for Ineos Fluor to sell
two million CERs from GFL to an ‘undisclosed’ European corporation over six years from
2006 (Ineos, 2004). Carbon investor Noble Carbon Credits—a subsidiary of global energy,
agriculture, and industrial conglomerate Noble Group—purchased GFL CERs to form part
of its claimed 15% market share in CERs (Kalesh, 2006; Noble Group, 2013; UNEP DTU,
2014). Carbon traders like Noble Carbon Credits and Natsource Tullett can profit from these
over-the-counter trades by taking advantage of the changing price differentials between
EU ETS allowances and CERs. CERs are also traded on exchanges like European Climate
Exchange and are used to create financial instruments such as futures, options, and other
derivatives (Ellerman et al, 2010, pages 139–146). As a large producer of CERs globally,
the GFL project has made a significant contribution to the formation and operation of these
financial markets.
(7) Installation names: INEOS Norge AS (Norway), Ammoniakanlage—Hilfskessel O6 (Germany),
and Grangemouth Chemicals (UK).
(8) All installation ownership data from Carbon Market Data (2014) and defined as a greater than
50% + 1 stake.
Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India 11
Many large energy companies have also set up their own carbon trading offices. For
example, Électricité de France (EDF), the state-owned corporatized French energy giant,
set up a €290 million carbon fund through EDF Trading, which develops projects and trades
CERs with EDF subsidiaries and third parties (EDF Trading, 2013). Installations owned by
EDF surrendered 462 476 CERs produced by GFL between 2008 and 2012 with almost half
by its UK energy utilities (European Commission, 2013). EDF has also used the trading
and purchase of CERs to cultivate a ‘green’ marketing image for competitive advantage in
the UK energy market. EDF Group’s (2009, page 72) Activity and Sustainable Development
Report states that the purchase of CERs from India forms part of its “commitment to energy
eco-efficiency” which aligns with EDF Energy’s (UK) green marketing campaign that saw it
sponsor the 2012 London Olympics as “official sustainability partner” (EDF Energy, 2013).
Most importantly, the primary use value of CERs for the fossil fuel industry is their
compliance value under the EU ETS. Between 2008 and 2012, 1120 installations (about 8%
of total EU ETS installations) surrendered 47.02 million GFL CERs (European Commission,
2013). This accounted for 7% of the total 675.39 million CERs surrendered by EU ETS
installations from all CDM projects in this period (European Commission, 2013). Therefore,
the CDM, and the GFL project in particular, has enabled Northern companies to emit millions
of tonnes more carbon dioxide than they otherwise would have been able to. Surrendered
GFL credits have been concentrated in a few large installations and companies, with the
top-ten installations surrendering 11.64 million CERs (European Commission, 2013). They
include coal-fired power plants, such as the Eggborough Power Station in East Yorkshire,
UK, which on average exceeded its allocated allowances by 41.24% in the second phase of
the EU ETS and surrendered 794 218 GFL CERs to help meet the shortfall (Carbon Market
Data, 2014; European Commission, 2013).
Figure 2. Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited (GFL) Certified Emission Reductions commodity
network. Note. ECX—European Climate Exchange; EDF—Électricité de France; EU ETS—EU
Emissions Trading System.
12 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
However, not all CERs surrendered for compliance in the EU ETS were necessary
for installations to emit overallocated caps. Integriertes Hüttenwerk Duisburg, a steel
manufacturing installation in Duisburg, Germany, that is part-owned by ThyssenKrupp and
which also manages their trading account, surrendered the largest quantity of GFL credits
at 3.12 million CERs (European Commission, 2013). At both the installation and company
level, free allocation exceeded verified emissions, leading to a substantial surplus of
European permits (Carbon Market Data, 2014; European Commission, 2014). The option
of surrendering CERs for Integriertes Hüttenwerk Duisburg’s excess emissions would have
allowed ThyssenKrupp to bank its surplus European permits or take advantage of their higher
price than CERs by freeing them up to sell.
Discussion and conclusions
Through the GFL case study the CDM can be understood as a spatial fix in a variety of
ways. First, the CDM allows Northern states, such as Japan and the Netherlands, to meet
their Kyoto targets by exporting their emission reduction efforts to the South, minimizing
the need to fundamentally restructure their own fossil-fuel-dependent economies. Second,
purchasing CERs enables publicly and privately owned companies with emissions reduction
requirements under the EU ETS, like Ineos and Eggborough Power, to meet their targets
without paying higher costs associated with reducing pollution from their own production
activities and thereby maintaining their own rates of accumulation. In both cases states have
secured ongoing access for these actors to material carbon sinks, and therefore fossil fuels,
as conditions of production.
Third, the availability of cheap CERs through the CDM allows polluting companies in the
North, including Sumitomo and EDF, to market themselves in ‘green’ ways, quite separate
from their direct social relations with nature. Fourth, the economic activity generated by the
production of CERs provides project participants and other CDM actors without emission
reduction requirements, including project developers such as GFL and carbon brokers and
consultants like Natsource Tullet, with a new source of profits derived through the climate
crisis. Both are examples of the economic benefits of securing carbon sinks as conditions of
production in abstract form through their commodification.
Each political–economic fix is inextricably linked to materially fixed CDM projects by
the mechanism of carbon trading, which integrates internal and external spaces of Global
North and South fixed at UN climate negotiations. The carbon market enables the costs
of responding to the climate crisis to be displaced from (also fixed) polluting industries in
the North to communities in the South. The negative impacts of displacement at the local
level are caused by a conflict between the accumulation imperatives driving the political
economic fix and the needs of the communities and environments surrounding fixed projects
in the South. Substituting emission reductions in the North for the destruction of HFC-23
necessarily appropriates land, water, and ecological systems at the local level. Indeed, the
production of carbon credits in this way both depends on, and financially supports, polluting
HCFC-22 production. However, the conditions of production for CDM project developers
are also “conditions of human life” for local communities that require and manage healthy
ecosystems, clean water, and access to land to sustain their livelihoods (O’Connor, 1998,
page 155).
The conditions of life around CDM projects are not valued through CDM verification
processes or EU ETS and Kyoto compliance requirements. Indeed, the displacement of the
costs of CER production to these local conditions increases the profitability of participation
in the CDM market for project developers and Northern polluters. All CDM projects, whether
coal-bed methane or hydropower, are materially dependent on local conditions of production
and therefore have the potential to negatively impact local communities and ecosystems
Capital, states, and carbon offsetting in India 13
in the course of maximizing profits. Space is therefore fixed and global and local scales
reconfigured in the interests of the four political–economic fixes outlined above rather than
the interests of communities affected by CDM projects.
Voluntary schemes, such as the CDM Gold Standard, have attempted to value the
conditions of life around CDM projects and have been profitable for a limited number of
CDM market actors (Dhanda and Hartman, 2011). For example, the consultancy firms which
verify the additional social and environmental standards benefit from increased business,
project developers receive a premium price for their offsets, and the polluting companies
that purchase them gain additional marketing benefits beyond simple compliance (Paterson,
2010, page 361). But these profits are dependent on differentiation from a main CDM market
with less stringent regulations. Enforcement of such standards for all projects would act
as drag on the overall accumulation rationale of the CDM by raising costs for all project
developers and/or polluters while eliminating the financial benefits of ecolabelled offsets
as they are currently designed. Climate policy is riddled with contradictory interests over
fundamental issues such as emissions caps. However, the accumulation imperatives for both
old fossil-fuel-intensive and new for-profit CDM market actors line up with the relatively
cheap production of CERs, which is supported by weak social and environmental regulation
of projects at the local level (Paton and Bryant, 2012). For example, in the GFL case a greater
distribution of CER revenue to local communities or enhanced pollution controls would have
either reduced the profit margins for GFL or, if passed on, increased compliance costs for the
polluting industries in the North.
This suggests there are significant political–economic limitations to the potential to reform
the sustainable development governance of the CDM without challenging the rationale of the
instrument itself (see Paulsson, 2009; Sutter and Parreño, 2007). Nonetheless, the campaign
directed towards the European Commission to ban HFC-23 offsets from the CDM was a
major success (Carbon Market Watch, 2014). The ban means CERs produced by GFL will no
longer provide a ‘fix’ for European companies, and GFL (2012, page 12) has acknowledged
its profits from the CDM will dry up. Nevertheless, the analysis of the commodity networks
presented in this paper remains relevant for other project types that are still producing offsets
because eligible CERs are homogenous commodities when traded in carbon markets. Hence,
we expect similar dynamics and patterns can be observed in other CDM and voluntary offset
projects (Lohmann, 2012).
However, Harvey’s (1982, page 442) contention that “there is, in short, no ‘spatial fix’ that
can contain the contradictions of capitalism in the long run” appears to be already playing out
due to the all-too-visible contradictions within the accumulation rationale of the CDM. CER
prices have hovered around and below €1 since 2013 due to the large surplus of European
and offset permits in the EU ETS, which is projected to reach 3.1 billion credits by 2020 as
a result of overallocation, economic crisis, and the flooding of CERs into the market relative
to demand (Morris, 2012). The reluctance of EU institutions to go beyond minor reforms to
increase the demand for and the price of CERs by drastically decreasing emissions caps
and permanently withdrawing a substantial quantity of EU permits has erased many profit-
making opportunities in the CDM market (Lang, 2014). Financial institutions in the City of
London have been radically scaling back their carbon trading operations and proposals for
new CDM projects from project developers have dried up, demonstrating that the current
configuration of the spatial fix is not working for these actors (Pickard and Makan, 2013;
UNEP DTU, 2014).
The overproduction of CERs in this context is a symptom of states prioritizing parts
of the political–economic fix aimed at securing cheap emission reductions for polluting
companies in the North. The political priority given to fossil-fuel-dependent capital has been
at the expense of the economic interests of carbon trading industries that generally benefit
14 G Bryant, S Dabhi, S Böhm
from higher carbon prices, notwithstanding the potential for financial actors to profit from
market volatility at any price. This suggests that there may also be political–economic limits
for states in the implementation of carbon trading as an accumulation strategy for both fossil
fuel and ‘green’ industries.
Acknowledgements. Thanks to Mahesh Pandya and his team at Paryavaran Mitra, Nayan Patel, and
Noor Rathod from Yuva Shakti, Neeta Hardikar from Anandi, Robert David, and all the local villagers
and others who were interviewed in the course of the research. Thanks also to Stuart Rosewarne and
Joy Paton for their advice at across multiple drafts, Esteve Corbera and Adrian Martin for putting
together this special issue, and Environment and Planning As editors, staff, and excellent reviewers
who provided invaluable criticisms and suggestions.
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... One day a few years ago field staff employed by the State Forest Department made their way to Bhekhli. 3 This was not a surprise visit to the village, but one that had been quite long in the making. The World Bank had made sure that a carbon forestry subproject, following the procedures of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (Bryant et al., 2015;Ghosh, 2013) was included into the latest major development project the Bank financed in Himachal Pradesh. As a result, Forest Department staff had been entrusted with implementing afforestation projects in several of the state's valleys. ...
... Emissions reductions, however, are not. Critical geographers and allies have warned that CER schemes targeting avoided emissions, such as clean cooking energy drives or REDD+, are exercises in speculation where financial operations mute contingent development trajectories, including possible rebound effects, and foreground certainly seductive permanent reductions (Bryant et al., 2015;Dalsgaard, 2016;Müller, 2017;Wang & Corson, 2015). Afforestation drives, on the other hand, skew temporal dimensions by writing the very existence of specific carbon stocks into the future. ...
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Irrespective of controversies and frustrated efforts, carbon forestry—the sequestering of greenhouse gases in forests—remains a key element of climate change mitigation. Carbon forestry drives regularly rely on a market-based conservation framework, where forest dwellers are remunerated for their service of maintaining forests through dedicated financial instruments routing global funds. In this article, I turn to India’s first large-scale carbon forestry project, situated in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, and trace how carbon forestry plots are subjected to different temporal trajectories on different levels. I show that the marketing of emission reduction certificates (CER), underpinning carbon forestry, posits emergent forests as permanent sinks. The administrative procedures of this Indian carbon forestry project, however, aim at providing for these forests for sixty years. Finally, I show that villagers perceive a sense of closure, suspending dedicated care and governance routines as the project appears to dismantle and future payments become uncertain. I argue that these different temporal registers not only reveal contradictions within carbon forestry approaches but they also highlight the fragility of attempts to economize forests through supposedly green financial instruments and, therefore, the limited impact of what might appear as neoliberal agendas, in time.
... In 2014, one of us (Böhm) co-authored in the journal Carbon Management an analysis of evidence for 'Ten reasons why carbon markets will not bring about radical emissions reduction' (Pearse and Böhm 2014). The article argued that carbon markets do not work because they provide plenty of loopholes for the biggest emitters, often going handin-hand with a lack of political will to radically curb GHG emissions (see also Bryant et al. 2015). Lobbying by fossil fuel elites is rife and has resulted in dinosaur industries actually benefiting from the introduction of carbon markets, and there have also been many cases of corruption. ...
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This introduction to "Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis" positions the volume as an intervention, collecting together indicative contributions regarding what social scientists, humanities scholars and climate activists around the world think needs to be done in terms of both understanding why climate action has failed to dramatically reduce emissions to date, and proposing some routes towards radical climate change action now. That is, the book is intended to provide an affirmative set of ideas about what is to be done and how it can be done, to bring about radical climate change governance so that we have a chance of avoiding runaway climate change. We are publishing this collection of essays in the months leading up to the high-profile and eagerly awaited COP26 UN climate change conference, due to take place in Glasgow (Scotland, UK) in November 2021. At this conference, all the major stakeholders of the global climate change negotiation process will be present, including heads of state, large national government delegations, policy advisers, NGO and social movement activists, multinational corporations, industry associations, and inter-governmental institutions. There will be significant media interest in COP26, reaching millions of people around the world, linked, for example, with the re-entering of the agreement by the US, the newly entwined crises of COVID-19 and climate change, and negotiations around the form and content of Green New Deal proposals. We hope that this collection of essays will contribute to this discussion. Despite more than thirty years of high-level, global talks on climate change, we are still seeing emissions rising dramatically around the world. Whatever we have done on this planet in terms of climate mitigation over the past thirty plus years has not worked. Given that most climate scientists believe we are soon running out of time, the authors contributing to this volume ask what has gone wrong and what now needs to be done. We hope the essays collated here will help us move more radically and urgently in the direction needed.
... This is particularly important in the context of place-based indigenous communities with heterogeneous forms of knowledges in their worldviews [10]. Energy and social science scholars have also highlighted the dynamics of colonial-like exploitation and the 'grabbing' of vulnerable people's land within the context of wind energy investments in the Global South (e.g., [3,4,14,[25][26][27][28]). Acknowledging these insights, we seek to expand our understanding of the colonial dynamics of energy investments by building on the theory of internal colonialism [29][30][31][32][33]. ...
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Energy production is a source of disputes across the world. Governments and firms argue that investing in wind energy contributes to the sustainable development of energy systems. However, wind farms perpetuate ongoing injustices and instigate new injustices. Vulnerable groups such as excluded and marginalised indigenous people can trace the injustices in low-carbon investments to a historical continuity of oppression and repression by internal and external elite groups. Based on a qualitative longitudinal study in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico, we expand our understanding of the energy justice framework in two ways. First, we show that cognitive justice is a vital dimension for understanding different ways of life, traditions and customs. Second, we propose the new concept of ‘transactional colonialism’, which emphasises the role of economic transactions between firms and economically motivated members of indigenous communities with the support of elite actors. This article provides new insights into the conflicting dynamics of wind energy investments in the Global South.
... Source: 438 B.K. Sovacool et al. facilities that seek to destroy or abate F-gases. There is troubling evidence from India that HFC-23 destruction projects there became polluting and potentially toxic activities when their hazardous feed stocks (such as chloroform and sulfuric acid) and wastes were not treated and disposed of properly [216]. A project there was accused of dumping hazardous wastes from HFC-23 destruction directly into community watersheds. ...
Article
Humanity has come to depend on synthetic, factory made gases that have extremely significant global warming potential. Fluorinated greenhouse gases, or F-gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) have been termed “super pollutants” and “super greenhouse gases” given their severe and powerful impact on the climate. They are the most potent greenhouse gases known to modern science, with global warming potentials far greater than carbon dioxide, some up to almost 24,000 times more so. Troublingly, they are also the fastest growing class of greenhouse gas emissions around the world, especially in developing countries. Research suggest that almost 40% of their emissions by 2050 will fall outside the scope of international agreements such as the Paris Accord, Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment. Without comprehensive and sustained interventions, uncontrolled growth in F-gas emissions could offset all of the gains made by the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, or the cornerstone of existing international climate governance, the Nationally Determined Contributions of the 2015 Paris Accord. This review asks: What options are available to mitigate the environmental impacts of F-gases and thus make their manufacturing or disposal far more sustainable? What technical solutions and innovations exist to make their industrial usage low to zero carbon? What benefits will accrue from F-gas mitigation, and what barriers will need addressed? It undertakes a comprehensive and critical review of more than 140,000 sources of evidence, and a short list of 855 studies on the topic. It utilizes a sociotechnical lens that examines the manufacturing and use of F-gases across multiple sectors (including refrigeration, electronics manufacturing, non-ferrous metals processing, and applications in consumer goods) and components of its lifecycle (including not only manufacturing, but also use, disposal and destruction). We find that there are several policies and regulations that can be employed to address this already serious and growing climate change challenge.
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Despite geographical critiques of the financialisation of climate governance, deteriorating environmental conditions, entrenched market logics, and the concentration of capital in the hands of financiers demand new strategies to contend with climate finance. We envision routes to better futures by surveying “financialised” responses to climate catastrophe that might be harnessed towards more reparative and decommodified ends. We combine ideas of “repair” and “capital switching” to evaluate financial tools for “reparative climate infrastructures” in five cases centred on energy, land, and water in the United States, Australia, Indonesia, and Brazil. Through these cases, we identify three key themes—governance, scale, and the state—that illuminate the socioecological, material, and political dimensions of reparative capital switching. The cases are each hopeful and cautionary. Together they offer a window into the contested terrain of climate finance in the present and highlight the need for critical attention to its strategic possibilities.
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The article uses the “socio-ecological fix” concept in order to critically analyse contemporary energy transition processes. It discusses the inherent contradictions of such transitions and the need to actively involve local communities in planning the emerging energy geographies. Influenced by Geographical Political Economy and drawing upon three central EU case study regions, the rationale behind decarbonisation policies and their work implications are studied. Furthermore, the ongoing energy transition in Western Macedonia is critically approached, highlighting the excessive risk of job loss and increasing precarity. A key finding is that the emerging “socio-ecological fix” will not lead to a “just transition”.
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Στο άρθρο προσεγγίζονται κριτικά οι διαδικασίες ενεργειακής μετάβασης υπό το αναλυτικό πρίσμα των «κοινωνικο-οικολογικών παγιώσεων/διευθετήσεων», ενώ συζητούνται οι εγγενείς αντιφάσεις τους και η αναγκαιότητα εμπλοκής του κόσμου της εργασίας στα υπό διαμόρφωση ενεργειακά τοπία. Με επιρροές από τη Γεωγραφική Πολιτική Οικονομία και αξιοποιώντας παραδείγματα τριών κεντρικών περιφερειών της ΕΕ, μελετάται το σκεπτικό πίσω από τις πολιτικές απανθρακοποίησης και οι επιπτώσεις στην εργασία. Ακολούθως, προσεγγίζεται κριτικά η επιχειρούμενη μετάβαση στη Δυτική Μακεδονία, ενώ επισημαίνεται ο κίνδυνος απώλειας χιλιάδων θέσεων εργασίας και αύξησης της εργασιακής επισφάλειας. Βασικό εύρημα είναι πως επιχειρείται μία νέα «κοινωνικο-οικολογική διευθέτηση» που στερείται βασικών προϋποθέσεων μίας «δίκαιης μετάβασης».
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This introduction to the special issue revisits the idea of ‘green neoliberalism’ through the lens of market-based restoration and reforestation projects in India. Addressing the strategic role of forests as ‘carbon sinks’ and ‘service providers’ in today’s neoliberal reform projects, it contributes to a renewed attention to the material production of such (un)desired natures and their variegated realities. It argues that empirical accounts of how the reorganisation of forests is imagined, how it is implemented through specific programmes, and how it gets entangled into the multi-layered histories of people and places, are critical to understand the tensions but also the openings that neoliberal restructuring at the forested frontier entails. First, the article builds on sustained critiques of ‘green neoliberalism’ to retrace changes in global environmental politics over the last 30 years, stamped by the extended reach of the market both outward —through a performative discursive shift and quantification drives— and inward, as it now aims at subjecting practices, habits and emotions to relentless rounds of improving and enhancing. Second, it considers these developments against the background of India’s forest governance since the 1990s, which saw the emergence of the judiciary as a key institution to enforce environmental laws and countertrends to democratizing forest governance. In light of empirical data collected in the special issue, it asks to what degree instruments such as compensatory afforestation or carbon forestry constitute a departure from older forestry projects, and, in fine, the heuristics of neoliberalism as a category, taking issue with the all-powerfulness of India’s State Forest Departments, the long-standing exclusion of local communities, the use of forests as capital for elite bureaucracies, but also the currency and power of the developmental state in India.
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Markets in carbon offsetting have, since their inception, been defended by their proponents as ‘experiments’ when it comes to the scale and the scope of their purpose of governing climate mitigation. Yet, different counter-narratives or ‘tales of defiance’ have been mounted as critiques of offsetting. This article focuses in particular on a tale of defiance, which continually has dismissed offsetting as a form of indulgence payment. While acknowledging that there are clear similarities between offsets and indulgence payments, the article argues that the indulgence payment metaphor glosses over the complexity of both types of transactions. The historical development of indulgence payments in the past demonstrates the difficulty of using them as simple models for understanding the problems inherent to offsetting, even if both types of transactions have been controversial. The debates over carbon offsetting continue to evolve, however, and recent developments seem to suggest a third tale, where the funding of emission-reducing projects are seen as donations of development aid, instead of being assumed to compensate for the donor’s emissions.
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Through an investigation of the political economy of wind park development in Oaxaca, southern Mexico, I explore the contested meaning of environmental justice. I contend that, despite their seemingly benign image, wind parks in Oaxaca operate within a spatially abstracted, colonial epistemology of capital-centred development. This involves a remaking of space and an appropriation of nature on behalf of capital. Concomitantly, it also involves a process of dispossession for Indigenous communities, foreclosing alternative pathways of development. I contrast this project of place-making with a subaltern-centred conception of environmental justice informed by Indigenous resistance.
Book
People around the world are confused and concerned. Is it a sign of strength or of weakness that the US has suddenly shifted from a politics of consensus to one of coercion on the world stage? What was really at stake in the war on Iraq? Was it all about oil and, if not, what else was involved? What role has a sagging economy played in pushing the US into foreign adventurism? What exactly is the relationship between US militarism abroad and domestic politics? These are the questions taken up in this compelling and original book. In this closely argued and clearly written book, David Harvey, one of the leading social theorists of his generation, builds a conceptual framework to expose the underlying forces at work behind these momentous shifts in US policies and politics. The compulsions behind the projection of US power on the world as a "new imperialism" are here, for the first time, laid bare for all to see.
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The European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the world's largest market for carbon and the most significant multinational initiative ever taken to mobilize markets to protect the environment. It will be an important influence on the development and implementation of trading schemes in the US, Japan, and elsewhere. However, as is true of any pioneering public policy experiment, this scheme has generated much controversy. Pricing Carbon provides the first detailed description and analysis of the EU ETS, focusing on the first ‘trial’ period of the scheme (2005–7). Written by an international team of experts, it allows readers to get behind the headlines and come to a better understanding of what was done and what happened based on a dispassionate, empirically based review of the evidence. This book should be read by anyone who wants to know what happens when emissions are capped, traded, and priced. © Association Pour la Recherche sur l'Economie du Carbone 2010.
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In Uneven Development, a classic in its field, Neil Smith offers the first full theory of uneven geographical development, entwining theories of space and nature with a critique of capitalist development. Featuring pathbreaking analyses of the production of nature and the politics of scale, Smith's work anticipated many of the uneven contours that now mark neoliberal globalization. This third edition features an afterword updating the analysis for the present day. © 2008 by The University of Georgia Press. All rights reserved.
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The process commonly referred to as business-as-usual has given rise to dangerous climate change, but its social history remains strangely unexplored. A key moment in its onset was the transition to steam power as a source of rotary motion in commodity production, in Britain and, first of all, in its cotton industry. This article tries to approach the dynamics of the fossil economy by examining the causes of the transition from water to steam in the British cotton industry in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Common perceptions of the shift as driven by scarcity are refuted, and it is shown that the choice of steam was motivated by a rather different concern: power over labour. Turning away from standard interpretations of the role of energy in the industrial revolution, this article opens a dialogue with Marx on matters of carbon and outlines a theory of fossil capital, better suited for understanding the drivers of business-as-usual as it continues to this day.