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On Carbon Trading: An interview with Steffen Böhm




De Groene Amsterdammeran independent Dutch weekly newsmagazine, interviewed Professor Steffen Böhm.


The original article was published in 14th issue of the newsmagazine on April 6, 2016.


Please read the full article in PDF format or, preview on De Groene Amsterdammer.



The following paragraphs were quoted from the article: 

The seed for emissions trading was planted during the negotiations for the Kyoto-protocol in 1997, says political ecologist Steffen Böhm. ‘At the COP in Japan, the US took everyone by surprise by introducing the idea of carbon markets. At the time nobody was particularly enthusiastic about this, the EU also opposed the plan, but to accommodate the US the idea of emission trading was eventually adopted in the treaty.’


That the American plan is now a broadly accepted policy, can be explained by the emergence of a green-progressive coalition of NGO’s, companies and politicians. ‘The idea at the time was that carbon markets were, at that moment, the best, perhaps even the only way to move forward. At the heart, it was a pragmatic decision. There was no political will for more effective measures, and this way at least something got done.’

‘Now twenty years have passed, and there is no evidence that the CO2-emissions have been reduced because of emission trading. It just doesn’t work. All the progress we’ve made in this regard is thanks to the slowing growth of the global economy and the technological development of renewable energy. The idea was introduced by the US mainly as a delaying tactic and now we’e stuck with it. The sooner we get rid of the ETS, the sooner we can start making real progress.’


‘It was an experiment, but it failed miserably. Let’s not waste any more time on it.’

Despite the fact that many politicians truly believe in the market mechanism, there’s a different explanation why the system remains in place:

‘There are plenty of people who have an interest in defending this system: traders, bankers, consultants, regulators, etc. Because of a revolving door, they also easily influence political decision making’


On carbon fetishim: ‘Everything – including different greenhouse gases – is being measured in terms of CO2, everything can be expressed in numbers and financial value. This kind of environmental policies has an extremely narrow view on ecology. Forests and oceans are reduced to carbon sinks.’