Carbon markets will not help stop climate change

Can countries transform the global energy system using a mechanism fundamentally at odds with expert views on how systems actually change? At the international climate change negotiations in Madrid, we’re giving it a shot. Trading carbon is widely said to make emissions cuts cheaper. But for whom? And why is it dominating climate diplomacy in Madrid?

Similar to the climate policy paralysis in Oregon, global negotiations are bogged down by economists’ favorite mechanism, taxes. It doesn’t seem to matter to economists that carbon pricing or trading systems lack evidence of efficacy, or that taxing emissions only attacks a symptom of the fundamental structural causes of emissions.

In this opinion piece, the president of the Institute for Energy and Climate Strategies, Dennis Clare, asks why we’re wasting time on carbon markets.