Between Twilight and Renaissance: Changing Prospects for the Carbon Market

Mehling, Michael
October 2012
Carbon & Climate Law Review;2012, Vol. 6 Issue 4, p277
While several established carbon markets are experiencing a crisis of confidence, a remarkable transition towards carbon trading is currently underway in the developing world. Given the multiple benefits ascribed to market-based instruments for greenhouse gas abatement, the rise of carbon markets in important emerging economies should come as no surprise: no other policy option promises certainty of environmental outcome while lowering the cost of its achievement, and developing countries with rapidly growing economies are no less sensitive to the impacts of carbon constraints than their developed counterparts. But it would be premature to assume a carbon market renaissance: as the experience in industrialized countries has shown, quantity rationing with tradable emission units places considerable demands on the implementing jurisdiction, requiring technical capacity and political will in order to succeed. Although the rise of carbon trading in developing countries affirms the continued relevance of this policy instrument, it also highlights the importance of policy learning and clarity about objectives if earlier missteps are to be avoided. Providing the introductory background for a special issue of the Carbon & Climate Law Review (CCLR) on carbon markets in the developing world, this article canvasses recent developments and central trends in carbon trading, suggesting tentative priorities for developing countries engaged in the pursuit of domestic markets.


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