Placing carbon markets in a climate-changing capitalism

Dr Gareth Bryant1

1The University Of Sydney


This paper will contribute to the session by discussing the experience of the biggest global experiment in green finance to date: the European carbon market and its links with international offsetting schemes. Drawing on my recent book, Carbon Markets in a Climate-Changing Capitalism, published by Cambridge University Press, the paper outlines three contradictions of carbon markets for addressing climate change as a socio-ecological, economic and political crisis. First, carbon markets apply principles and tools of formal market equality to address what is a substantively unequal socio-ecological problem. Second, the economic viability of carbon markets depends on the maintenance of fossil fuel industries that require phasing out. Third, carbon markets shape climate politics in a way that prioritises the singular logic of price incentives over pluralistic policy debate. The paper will conclude by reflecting on what the experience of global carbon markets reveals about other fledgling and faltering versions of ‘selling nature to save it’.


Gareth Bryant is a Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Sydney. Gareth’s research explores financial modes of governing different areas of socio-ecological life. He is the author of Carbon Markets in a Climate-Changing Capitalism (Cambridge University Press) and has published articles on climate and education policy in Environment and Planning A, Antipode, Energy Policy, New Political Economy and the Annals of the American Association of Geographers. Gareth was awarded the Australian International Political Economy Network (AIPEN) journal article prize and the Global Network for Financial Geography (FINGEO) dissertation prize. He co-edits the Progress in Political Economy (PPE) blog.

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