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Flashpoint of Rebellion

The fact that the Gilet Jaunes protests were sparked by a fuel tax – an important part of Macron’s climate policy – has been downplayed by mainstream media analyses. A New York Times analysis of the largely rural dissatisfaction hardly mentioned the tax, and even analyses by Bloomberg go out of their way to wonder whether voters will turn to the hard right or the hard left come election time – a questionable supposition given protestors’ widespread rejection of electoral politics. To a certain extent, the importance of climate policy has also been de-emphasized by the “Yellow Vests” themselves, at least to the extent that protestors have claimed they will not remove the barricades even now that Macron has pulled the plug on the tax. Increasingly – and I have no reason to doubt its accuracy–the protests are seen as an assault on Europe’s liberal order itself – a referendum on technocratic, elitist and urban-focused policies for which Macron is seen as the natural heir now that Angela Merkel has said she will not seek re-election.

In fact it seems like a pretty straight forward carbon pricing approach could have obviated Macron’s problems, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Contrast France’s political crisis with the bold rhetoric of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. The incoming Congresswoman is bidding to galvanize progressives by emphasizing a program of national economic and environmental justice. More than public speeches, she has published draft text for establishing a select committee in the House for this purpose before taking office and only a month after winning her election. Climate policy – in this case the failed climate policies of Republicans and centrist Democrats alike – is as much a flash point for political organizing as in France. The fact that both are being billed as revolutionary should hardly be lost on centrist parties that hold fast to a vision of global order in which economic liberalism and technocratic administration conspire in the progressive impoverishment of working people. Les Gilet Jaunes and Ocasio-Cortez are both highly aware that most people can’t afford climate change policies on offer today.

Cushioning the Blow

There are lessons to be learned from the French debacle, but they can’t be limited to finding a softer glove for the fist of the state. A New York Times piece on this point argues “France’s cancellation of the tax increase this week in the aftermath of increasingly violent protests signaled the perils and political headwinds that governments worldwide may face as they try to wean their citizens from fossil fuels.” The infantilizing metaphor of weaning the populace from energy use is all too telling.

The proposals in the NY Times article include bland options like trying to better distribute the burden away from rural areas where people have few transportation options, or ensuring tax revenues are better spent on climate sensitive alternatives. “What France’s experience has made clear, analysts say, is that fuel taxes work best as part of a more comprehensive plan that tries to offset the disproportionate pain felt by lower-income workers who can least afford the changes.”

Personally I doubt that cushioning the blow is going to do the trick. The imposition of consumption-based carbon pricing inevitably comes up against the hard fact that, by and large, many people have little choice over their use of fossil fuels. Moreover, this is a built-in feature of class relations. As a rule, as a matter of daily consumption choices, many people have direct say over energy use in two main respects: disposable income for discretionary purposes such as recreation or entertainment, and in decisions for larger purchases such as cars, home improvement, appliances, and so forth. Beyond that, for most working people the efficiency gains from marginal changes like adjusting the thermostat or limiting automobile use don’t seem worth the political cost. The only thing they do is make a difficult life less sufferable.

The idea of using revenue for investing in infrastructure or energy projects that will take years – if ever – to help people out seems pretty obtuse. Are you really going to tell folks living in small towns to take the bus rather than drive? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in small towns and rural bus routes are life-savers for many, many people. But people are pressed for time as much as cash, and the fact is these policies, even when they make sense in the long term, place the immediate burden on the wrong people.

After all, a nominal fuel tax no doubt will have virtually no effect on the behavior of the wealthiest – I mean the largest – polluters. One could even surmise that a flat tax will never appreciably reduce emissions, for the simple reason that those who are income strapped have little choice and for most of those who are flush it makes little difference. The number of folks for whom 6 cents a gallon is the deciding factor must be fleetingly small. To think that a velvet glove approach will work belittles the intelligence of those expected to submit to the policy.

No New Taxes

A fee and dividend approach would have made a world of difference for Macron. If you want a populist measure for populist times, brand your carbon pricing well. No new taxes. Take from the big polluters to bolster the income of the working class. Price carbon, but return all the money to the people.

On the eve of California’s Global Climate Action Summit earlier this year,  number of prominent fiscal conservatives associated with the Climate Leadership Council released a major report that was virtually ignored. George Shultz, Larry Summers, Christine Todd Whitman – you can hear the progressives moaning – even Trent Lott have co-authored a white paper arguing for the fee and dividend model of carbon pricing. This form of pricing has been advanced by the likes of Exxon-Mobile, while similar proposals have been championed by Sentators Maria Cantwell and Lisa Murkowski.

It has also long been a central prerogative of climate justice activists – think Naomi Klein – on the far left of the American political spectrum. No wonder these proposals keep getting ignored.

A fee and dividend model puts a price on carbon emissions, but instead of collecting that money as tax revenue, it returns it outright to resident tax payers and dependents as an even payout. Those who pollute more, pay more. Those who pollute less get a nice check every month.

Administratively it’s comparatively easy because everyone gets the same amount. Got four kids and take the bus everywhere? Nice.

Add to that a rebate model that supports people who are structurally disadvantaged (think cost of living emissions like basic transportation, housing or heating), and buoy efficiency improvements for upgrades and major purchases so people will actually think it’s reasonable to replace their fuel oil boiler with natural gas or buy a smaller car.

Furthermore, it’s important to price carbon emission upstream so that the policy doesn’t feel so stingy – or so personal. If you put a fuel price at the pump, it hurts me. If you tax it at the refining process then the costs are distributed through the economy, and it ceases to be a kind of moral judgment on people who need to drive.

After all, corporate actors are in a far better position to come up with climate solutions than most people who are structurally in the position of accepting the limited array of options presented to them.

Is it possible that Gilet Jaunes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Larry Summers could share something in common? There is only one way to find out.




I wound up in an interesting debate on the climate change anthropology email list today (<>) with an anthropologist who’s been involved in the UNFCCC lead-up to Paris.

I won’t publish what she wrote on a closed list here, but I figured I would put up my comments since I spent so much time on it when I should have been doing other things.

Bloomberg published recently-released national emissions pledges which are now called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.’

I sent Bloomberg’s short note to the email list along with my commentary (I should say the Singapore numbers are from memory and might be off by a percent or two):

Some might find this useful/relevant.
Keep in mind that many pledges use a BAU baseline, which makes them very hard to interpret. For example, Singapore (not on this list) pledges a 11% reduction from BAU by 2020, but if you dig around in the national climate strategy you can figure out that they expect an overall 78% increase in emissions, so they’re really pledging a 67% increase and calling it a reduction. And the BAU will obviously change whenever they revise their assumptions.
Anyway, the language they’re using now is a stellar demonstration of anthropocene/poeisis. ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.’ What a great process! Bravo to the Obama administration to destroying the Bali accord/ LCA approach.

CORRECT: National Climate Commitments for Dec. UN Summit (Table)
2015-06-12 14:27:47.425 GMT

(Corrects Gabon’s proposed reduction in table.)

By Alessandro Vitelli
(Bloomberg) — Following is a table outlining national
pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions that have been published
on the United Nations’ climate website before a summit in
At climate talks in Warsaw in 2013, countries were invited
to submit plans for outright cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions,
or reductions compared with a business-as-usual growth scenario,
to the UN before envoys from 194 nations meet in Paris to reach
agreement on a global treaty to start in 2021.
The pledges, known as Intended Nationally Determined
Contributions, or INDCs, are listed on the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change website.

Country       Reduction          Notes
Andorra       -37%               Below BAU levels by 2030
Canada        -30%               From 2005 levels by 2030
Ethiopia      -64%               Below BAU levels by 2030
EU            at least -40%      From 1990 levels by 2030
Gabon         at least -50%      Below BAU levels by 2025
Liechtenstein -40%               From 1990 levels by 2030
Mexico        -25%               Below BAU levels by 2030
Morocco       -32%               Below BAU levels by 2030
Norway        at least -40%      From 1990 levels by 2030
Russia        -25%-30%           From 1990 levels by 2030
Switzerland   -50%               From 1990 levels by 2030
U.S.          -26%-28%           From 2005 levels by 2025

For Related News and Information:
Environment News: NI ENV <GO>
Climate News: NI CLIMATE <GO>

The response back, from someone whose work deserves careful attention, was straight forward enough: Jerome, you’re not even in the ball-park. So I took the trouble to explain my admittedly flippant commentary.
[One thing I hadn’t previously noticed and didn’t discuss is that only non-Annex countries are using BAU – something I need to look into more and may change my mind about the meaning of the UN process.]
I agree with your last thought, that the predicament is extremely difficult to find a way out of: climate change goes to core issues that cannot be solved by fiat. But I’m not sure I follow why you disagreed with my assessment. Do you think a 67% increase in emissions can legitimately be described as a reduction? I personally, and respectfully, think this kind of accounting trick is done in bad faith (although the Southeast Asian developing country negotiators I have met all have excellent intentions). Also, Pershing and Stern were very clear at Copenhagen that there was no way the US would enter an agreement that bound the US economy to UN-mandated quantitative reductions. It was not just about whether the BRICS would also have commitments – none of them either wanted anything so strict, and the acrimonious blaming just distracted from the fact that US engagement with the FCCC fundamentally transformed the nature of a future agreement. Now, in my view, they have built in specific ways to make the numbers obfuscatory (which, as we know, is routine business when it comes to environmental justice issues).
I think it’s awesome that a host of developing countries are engaging in this exercise. But just as with carbon markets and the comprehensive fraud that accompanies claims of additionality [add link and link], if we are going to have a regime that regulates emissions (rather than extraction), the numbers had better be rock solid, and building in counterfactuals like BAU is precisely the wrong way to do it. Why do we need complicated derivatives-style accountancy that projects responsibility for climate change onto a (speculative) future? Isn’t this about histories of fossil energy extraction and systemic land-use change?
As for a concrete program of action, I’m excited by Heede’s work that shows a substantial majority of historical emissions can be attributed to just 90 companies (link), by divestment activism and attempts to shift the focus from atmospheric emissions to fossil extraction in historical context (such as the work of Carbon Tracker, EcoEquity, (I am sympathetic of criticisms of Heede like William Buckley’s, but ultimately I disagree with persistent attempts to place responsibility onto consumers. A particularly noxious example of this kind of deflection is the now-classic ‘billion high emitters‘ argument. The debates in the UN, after all, are about who gets to produce–not who gets to consume.) Like so many others I also am waiting for a robust UN commitment, and look forward to seeing what happens in Paris. That process deserves to be critiqued, for there is too much at stake to build in loopholes: having high expectations is not the same as being negative.
If you want to see the differences the loopholes can make, look at the concessions made to Russia and the former Soviet bloc during Kyoto – the 13 billion (!) so-called hot air permits that came from setting the baseline as 1990 (peak production) instead of 1992 (during severe recession).
One thing that would make a huge difference is if one country – just one country – made a costly, good faith demonstration of how serious the problem is. If a country like Singapore (where I live and work, and which I have tons of respect for) simply said ‘we know it’s a drop in the bucket but we’re going to regulate shipping and refining emissions, because no one is dealing with these issues and we actually have the ability to make a direct difference’ – just that would demonstrate unparalleled leadership. Instead we get self-congratulatory nonsense and a rush to further invest in petrochemicals.
With very best wishes, and apologies for the extended email,
Ok, now I’ve wasted even more time procrastinating… but maybe this will be useful in some future or another.

Since I haven’t updated the blog in a while, I’ll post a photo I took recently


As part of a special issue of PoLAR I’m editing, here’s my contribution, Carbon as a Metric of the Human (pre-publication draft). Not sure when it will be out yet, hopefully soon.

Abstract: In this paper, I frame the imaginative space of carbon management as a domain in which active reflection on the uncertain significance of climate change is able to take material form in the construction of new infrastructures of carbon accounting and carbon markets. ‘Carbon’ refers not to a chemical per se, but to a complex space of global atmospheric relations rendered material. I describe the historical ontology of carbon and atmosphere, which together form a distinct global medium. The atmosphere as medium is manifest in the informational spaces of digital platforms meant to work on the human subjects of climate change. I describe the carbon accounting practices of two Beijing-based enterprises that are involved in building out the infrastructure of carbon accounting for the purpose of decarbonizing Chinese industry. Carbon is at the center of a contemporary formation that is imaginative, materialist, heavily quantified, and oriented toward the technical modification of human affairs. It supposes that humans as planetary agents have become significant in terms of collective activity that is historically recent, highly unequal, and global in scope. The human is configured not as a biological species, such as in debates about life itself or distinctions between humans and other species, or in terms of an essential humanity that can provide the transcendent bonds of a moral community. Rather, carbon formulates the human ecologically and geologically, and with an eye toward imagining the future forms these relations might take. Hence, climate change has posed the human as a contemporary problem with particular urgency.

Jerome Whitington, National University of Singapore

This paper discusses three figures of climate anticipation in order to show that climate change poses the problem of anthropology per se, that is, the planet with respect to anthropos. The full paper can be accessed via the link above (about 8000 words).

A remarkable turn of events for climate scientists in the past several years has been momentous ecological changes that have accompanied current rises in average earth temperatures. What was before experienced as predictions about polar and glacial ice loss, ecological shifts and intensified weather is now increasingly confirmed. Moreover, the real-time changes in many cases are outpacing the predictions. This paper is an effort to think through the connection between ecological harm and recorded increases in average earth temperatures, the latter being a statistical touchstone for validating climate models which generally try to anticipate general climatological changes. It has been increasingly understood ‘Earth system’ (Crutzen 2006; also 2002a) is already undergoing profound changes, but the extent of these changes has barely been hinted at, and even less clear are the implications for specific ecosystems or indeed for human settlements. Reciprocally, this may be viewed as a problem of ‘man’ in a specifically neo-modern sense; Crutzen’s theory of the Anthropocene (Crutzen 2002a, 2002b; Zalasiewicz et al 2008) as a geological epoch succeeding the Holocene places distinct biophysical and chemical markers on Homo sapiens’ collective ability to transform biospheric conditions.

The language here is that of Earth in a ‘non-analogue’ condition, with implications for Earth as home. One is left with the original theoretical reflection on the possibility of climate change, long before it was understood as more than a problem of thermodynamics: Joseph Fourier in 1824 raised as a theoretical curiosity the basic question posed by a planet floating in space some 33deg. C warmer than an ideal blackbody of the same size and distance from the Sun (Weart 2003; Fourier 1827 [2004]). One can pose the problem from a different direction as well, to ask what the significance might be of a society and a mode of reason which is predicated on the geological extraction of billions of tons of fossil energy, stored hundreds of millions of years ago, then converted again via thermodynamic processes into a historically novel form of society (Mirowski 1989; Smil 2005). If the former figure relates to the arbitrariness of a planet floating in space then the latter provides a materialist engagement with practical activity within the human oikos (Arendt 1998). Either case, we might say now, hinges on the apprehension of open futures. With respect to climate knowledges I discuss in this paper, the question is, are there measurable events that might allow us to understand the changes in store for a climate transformation? Unlike modeling exercises, measurable changes underfoot create a new need to link the virtual to the actual and back again.

The scope of this essay must be tightly constrained for two main reasons. The first pertains to climate sciences themselves, which have long been unfairly accused of exaggerated claims about impending ecological collapse (e.g. Swyngedouw 2010, Romm 2012b). As a response to this, as many have noted, many public climate pronouncements including the aggregative scientific review work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have adopted conservative scientific assumptions for making politically relevant statements about scientific results. The result has been an extremely articulate awareness of uncertainties of climate science combined with a certain amount of obsessiveness or care in the public communication of science (and reflection on that public communication, e.g. Romm 2012a). The second constraint stems from the broad public interpretability of scientific results, which range from dismissiveness due to (incorrectly) presumed scientific uncertainty, to unnecessarily extreme assessments of impending doom by publics not used to thinking carefully about how climatic processes may or may not play out. There is a lot we don’t know, which allows for a broad range of imaginative potential. For some, uncertainty means inaction is a legitimate response; for others, it allows imagination to run unchecked. I focus here on three figures of anticipation that specifically constrain reasoned (imaginative) expectations about ecological futures with measured ecological changes discernible in the present.

As I describe below, the climate bellwether, the fingerprint and the model event each imply a specific sort of ethical or political relation forged between data and event. The first relates to understanding that measured changes are in fact climate change, that is, where specific changes bear a ‘fingerprint’ that indicates we are observing climate change and not something else. It is a figure that allows for calibration of the models. The second pertains to advance warning afforded by ecological processes, what some are calling climate bellwethers, that may be taken as signals of how climate events may play out, for example, geopolitically. The last I describe are ‘model events’ for the economic implications of climate change such as storm events that reveal the inadequacy of existing infrastructure for managing extreme weather.

Fig 1. Ancient permafrost dated to 740,000 years bp, discovered during a gold mining operation in Canada. © (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

Frederic Keck’s (2011) convincing utilization of the nonhuman sentinel relation as a figure for costly inter-species communication in times of uncertainty bears mention here. Increasingly the terminology of the climate bellwether or climate sentinel has gained relevance for a widespread outbreak of avian influenza, H5N1. For Keck the question of signaling refers to the species’ own communication of threat, but it also bears on the epistemological status of the threat, since what remains unknown is the given point and time, and precise nature, at which an anticipated virus may appear. The signal to act is made within a historical context defined by the intensity of industrial animal farms and the velocity of global circulation. The potentiality of the moment is generative.

Keck’s argument implies specific theorization of ornithological signaling within an evolutionary context. Because of the nature of the climate threat, usually ‘forward indicators’ do not pertain to individual species, since climate necessarily refers to a shift in pattern, rather than the emergence of some specific ontological threat (see Canguilhem 1989 on ontological theories of disease). I use the term bellwether rather than sentinel to preserve the distinctiveness of the climate threat and to hold in abeyance Keck’s assertion of the primacy of communication for his own theoretical resolution of the multiple contradictions raised by H5N1. For Keck the ethical ability to listen to sentinels involves awareness of the signaling being and hence interspecies communication (following Haraway 2008). I wonder if this interspecies ethics can be extended to ecosystems without being lost in a labyrinth of inadequate analogy. What happens when the activity of signaling is extended to ecosystems or to nonliving formations like glaciers? In particular, what ethics does it propose, that is, what are the beings here capable of being recognized? Meanwhile, the reciprocal configuration of now planetary contradictions force recognition of fossil energy commitments made long before any reasoned choice about outcomes could be determined. Keck’s figure of costly communication hinges on the communicative arbitrariness of prestige, one of Malinowski’s (1987) three primitive economies. But another figure of costly communication emerges from the necessity and impossibility of decision in which a concrete historical situation makes the assumption of risk compulsory.

Continue Reading here: Fingerprint, Bellwether, Model Event: Climate change as anthropology per se

The Institutional Condition of Contested Hydropower: The Theun Hinboun–International Rivers Collaboration
Jerome Whitington, Forum on Development Studies, 2012, 39:2, 231-256

This article describes an attempt to collaborate by a major hydropower firm in Laos with an activist NGO that had forced the company to deal with the environmental problems it had caused. The collaboration demonstrates activists’ destructuring effects on hydropower development institutions over the past three decades through a case study that can be examined in detail. Against the threat of greenwashing or other forms of sustainability communication, the  attempt to forge a way to neutrally evaluate environmental claims both was doomed to fail and simply replicated, rather than resolved, the institutional conditions of contested hydropower. I argue that activists have denaturalized expert knowledge through systematic denial of authoritative expertise, while in turn creating the condition for sustainability enclaves that can take root wherever contestation makes its mark. This view comes from attention paid to risk management and its close relation to media, including durable environmental relations that function as ‘new media’ crucial for transnational activist networks.

Keywords: Laos; hydropower; networks; new media; institutions

Hello all – I’m happy to report that a draft of my Accounting for Atmosphere article has now been submitted for review –  I’ve also posted it on my academic website. You should be able to access it here, and the abstract is below. This will one day become the book… now I’ve only to write it. No doubt it will go through further permutations before seeing the light of print, so do contact me before citing it. Comments are always deeply appreciated.

Accounting for Atmosphere: Climate Futures, Climates Past (under peer review)

Jerome Whitington, National University of Singapore

Among other things, the anthropological significance of climate change is that it represents an emergent attempt to manage the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Such a project is built around carbon accounting techniques as the core infrastructures for regulating the human practices that emit greenhouse gases. While the project may well fail, this perspective is held by the actors themselves—calling attention to environmentalism as the politics of possibility, distinct from an older politics of prudence, limits and necessity. Carbon accounting, far from normalizing numbers into a predictable knowledge regime, instead builds new techniques of mediation into durable infrastructures, what Rabinow calls remediation. Following Chris Kelty’s work with free software ‘geeks,’ I ‘model’ this activity along two axes, working with numbers, in which quantification infrastructure creates the capacity for work in a politically vexed situation, and thinking through things, in which the infrastructure enables people to think through the futures of climate policy even while they use things to think with. Building conceptual relations into durable forms is a sort of experimental practice in which understanding the implications of one’s assumptions—even those poorly understood or unacknowledged—is a public, embodied and physically extensive practice. But this makes new techniques of living prone to error. Such could describe climate change itself.

Accounting for atmosphere is a contender for one of the top ten anthro blogs. The poll is being held by Anthropology Report and can be accessed here –


Climate Justice Research Project

Carbon markets do not reduce emissions.

The EU ETS has systematically failed to induce investment in low-carbon technologies. This is true in both phases, and it has been true both during and before the euro crisis.

The EU ETS has been repeatedly subject to fraudulent practices, not simply by fringe or criminal elements but also by financial actors at the center of carbon trading. The European Commission recently accepted there would be inevitably some stolen allowances circulating in the markets, and made provisions to legally protect traders. The EC and national law enforcement have been unable to recover the vast majority of stolen credits or lost tax revenue.

Before the euro crisis, the glut of allowances in the ETS was projected to be over 1.1 billion tons of emissions at the beginning of phase 3 in 2013. The price of carbon is far below the cost of implementing new technologies for reduction. Financial actors are quickly abandoning carbon markets due to their dysfunction.

The ETS is highly susceptible to widespread lobbying, with the effect of completely unrealistic market pricing, windfall profits for industrials, political imbalances in who receives free allowances, and inability to include new sectors, such as airlines, into the market.

Carbon markets have especially failed to reduce CO2. Markets treat all GHGs as equivalent even when they are not, and subsequently avoid the real problem of reducing reliance on fossil energy. The ETS is simply an industrial subsidy for polluters, a fact which helps explain why the economic recovery has increased CO2 emissions to record levels.

Among other perverse incentives, the ETS has provided a major incentive distortion in favor of new dirty power plants, while the CDM has provided a major incentive to generate HFCs.

Environmental integrity is systematically undermined in the rule making surrounding carbon markets. The only partial exception is when NGO actors, using their own funds, research and initiative, are able to forcefully criticize specific market failings. There is no internal process to maintain or even verify the environmental integrity of carbon markets.

Carbon offsets are rights to pollute. The CDM is a market formally organized to transfer a new ‘natural’ resource asset from the developing world to Europe.

Carbon offsets create more problems for poor people, and make marginalized groups and developing countries bear the climate burden.

The CDM does not reduce emissions and is not designed to reduce emissions. At best, it produces a net zero balance of emissions, but with any error it actually increases emissions.

Widespread error in additionality requirements virtually guarantees that a very high proportion of CDM projects actually increase emissions, while concentrating wealth among a financial elite.

CDM investment is not ‘development,’ but cash payments to existing elite. Its idea of development is highly reductive, focused only on indices of FDI and GDP, with little awareness of the factors that encourage broad social development on an equitable basis. In some cases, CDM projects actively harm the lives of already marginalized groups.

Renewable energy standards have been far more important than carbon markets for investment in China and in Europe.

Forestry offsets are essentially law enforcement programs designed to kick marginalized groups and indigenous people off their land, often by enriching some local elite, promoting plantations and consolidating land grabs. They are incapable of curtailing commercial logging.

Private sector investment in ‘low-hanging fruit’ uses up the most valuable opportunities for developing countries to participate in carbon reduction activities. If and when developing countries have reduction commitments, they will be obligated to pay for far more expensive reductions.

The CDM Executive Board is unable to make necessary changes when environmental integrity of carbon offsets is against the interests of individual member states. Its inability to curtail HFC-based offsets is an excellent example.

The political organization of the CDM perpetuates the marginalization of smaller developing countries.

Instead of acknowledging the problems with carbon markets, the World Bank and related financial bodies have worked to create more carbon markets with lower standards and less transparency. The use of tools like Programme of Activities (PoA) and creditable NAMAs, and the proliferation of Pacific Rim domestic markets stand to make markets ungovernable.

Land use and forestry credits are systemically faulty and highly dangerous. Biospheric carbon cycles are not equivalent to geological carbon cycles, and the substitution of agricultural and forestry projects for fossil fuel extraction is a failure to confront the climate problem.

It is clear that the UN climate negotiations are now in tatters. The most ominous move, this time by the European Community, is to create a formal mechanism to separate the UN’s carbon market from the Kyoto Protocol, which is currently its legal basis.

It was already on the table last December, but this swift death to Kyoto, which contains the only currently operational principle of historical responsibility, is quickly being realized.

On the other hand, for climate justice activists the miserable condition of the UN negotiations can lead for a much stronger statement of the necessity of directly confronting the causes of climate change.

Working with the Climate Justice Research project, I have created a proposal  to directly cap fossil fuel extraction. ‘Keeping the coal in hole’ is a long-standing demand of climate activists. This proposal suggests we can use a ban on fossil energy extraction as a price driver with a direct effect on the climate and on the economy.

Climate Justice Policy Brief – Fossil Fuel Phase Out

We know that climate policy will be effective only if the vast majority of fossil fuels stay untouched, safely and geologically intact. The science is very clear. Here is a proposal to make it happen.