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The problems of markets: science, norms and the commodification of carbon

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Market-based approaches to commons problems have attracted considerable interest and claim various successes in managing environmental issues. Yet in order to apply market-based approaches to environmental problems we need to have both a good understanding of the dynamics of the system which we are commodifying, and a good, or at least shared, understanding of the criteria against which the policy is to be evaluated. In many settings within natural resource economics these are often taken for granted, or assumed to be relatively straightforward to obtain. Yet, as illustrated by the development of carbon markets in the context of climate change, structural problems can arise from a limited scientific understanding of system dynamics or of resource fluxes, or from inadequate framings of complex problems.

Keywords: climate change; climate policy; emissions trading

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Hayes House, 75 George St, Oxford OX1 2BQ, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PU, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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