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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Making Things the Same: Gases, Emission Rights and the Politics of Carbon Markets


This paper analyses the development of carbon markets: markets in permits to emit greenhouse gases or in credits earned by not emitting them. It describes briefly how such markets have come into being, and discusses in more detail two aspects of the efforts to ‘make things the same' in carbon markets: how different gases are made commensurable, and how accountants have struggled to find a standard treatment of emission rights. The paper concludes by discussing the attitude that should be taken to carbon markets (for example by environmentalists) and the possibility of developing a ‘politics of market design' oriented to making such markets more effective tools of abatement.

Insights Paper