The political ecology of carbon: Commodification, colonialism and debt in carbon offsetting under the Clean Development Mechanism
Abstract: The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a market-based attempt to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the mechanism is said to contribute to sustainable development in the Global South. This essay examines the forestry sector of the CDM, with the aim to illuminate the problematic nature of letting the market solve climate issues. By approaching the case from a theoretical framework of political ecology, a multidimensional understanding for the implications CDM projects have across scales is enabled. The analysis shows that the outcome of this is a reinforced North-South power imbalance, resulting in opportunities for dominating and exploiting people and environments. By further analyzing the projects through the concepts of carbon commodification, carbon colonialism and carbon debt, the CDM is placed within the material, socio-political and historical contexts in which it has emerged. Such multidimensional understanding serves to demonstrate that the CDM is shaped by a neoliberal logic and a capitalist mode of production, and that through the projects, winners and losers are produced in the name of climate policy.
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