We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Carbon Trading Workshop

7th November 2007, 10:30 to 18:00, Senate Suite, Durham Castle

This pioneering workshop draws together some of the leading scholars working on the topic including Marcel Braun, Anita Engels, Larry Lohmann and Donald MacKenzie. The commentator will be the currently most influential figure in economic sociology in Europe, Michel Callon.

The social-science understanding of carbon markets is thus in the years to come likely to be a crucial area of research.

The currently favoured policy tool for slowing global warming is carbon-emissions markets, such as the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme.

The basic principles of a ‘cap-and-trade' scheme of that sort are straightforward: governments set a cap on emissions, sell or give that number of allowances to emitters, and then monitor emissions and fine anyone who emits without the requisite allowances. Those emitters for whom reductions are expensive will want to buy allowances rather than incurring disproportionate costs. The requisite supply of allowances is created by the financial incentive thereby provided to those who can make big cuts in emissions relatively cheaply. They can save money by not having to buy allowances, or (if allowances are distributed free) can earn money by selling allowances they don't need.

Yet constructing a real, environmentally-effective market around those basic principles is a huge and difficult task, as is demonstrated by the problems of the current phase of the Emissions Trading Scheme, in which prices have collapsed as it has become clear that too many allowances were issued by Europe's governments. The issues involved go beyond economics to include political science (because, for example, of the key role of the politics of allocations), science and technology studies (because, for example, of the dependence of the design of markets on our knowledge of the determinants of climate change) and anthropology/area studies (because, for example, of the interaction between cap-and-trade schemes and the sometimes controversial projects of the UN's Clean Development Mechanism). As carbon markets become global, we will need to understand topics ranging from U.S. electoral politics to the political economy of international aviation or of the refrigerant industries of China and India.

This workshop is free and open to all. To register, please contact Audrey Bowron ( For more information, contact Donald MacKenzie (

A workshop specifically for Research Students working on carbon markets is being organised for 8th November 2007. Please contact Gareth Powells ( to register your interest in this event.

Contact for more information about this event.