The Rise of Voluntary Carbon Offset Standards: Self-Regulation, Legitimacy and Multi-Scalar Governance
Adam G. Bumpus
University of Melbourne; University of British Columbia - Sauder School of Business
Diana M. Liverman
University of Oxford
University of Edinburgh
September 20, 2010
Although there is growing recognition in the academic literature of the role of non-nation state actors such as cities and large corporate emitters in climate governance, little attention has been paid to ‘carbon offset organisations’, a new set of largely private sector actors who develop carbon reduction projects and sell the resulting credits. In this paper we investigate the emerging self-regulation of the voluntary carbon market as companies set quality standards in order to respond to criticisms and to anticipate and steer government rules. These standards aim to provide a legitimacy that can support both innovation and credible carbon reductions driven by the private sector, rather than imposed by regulatory policy. We critically assess the evolution of these standards through in-depth case studies and explore the attempted state regulation of the voluntary market in the UK. These raise important issues about authority and legitimacy, and rescaling of environmental governance that is devolved to non-nation state actors over multiple scales. We discuss these movements within the broader literature on neoliberal natures, environmental standards and the critical geographies of the carbon economy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: Carbon offsets, self-regulation, standards and certification, climate change, neoliberalism, carbon marketsworking papers series
Date posted: September 21, 2010
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