The Carbon Trade Fairy Tale

A useful animation describing the corporate rip-off and fairy tale that is carbon trading/carbon credits/’the green economy’. The perfect way to distract from the real issues, the closing down of fossil fuel industries, the strict regulation of emissions. Also the cheapest way for big business to avoid state intervention and make more bucks at the same time. Meanwhile the world burns and careers towards the abyss. Carbon trading was first pushed by the US (Al Gore) at Kyoto in 1997, now dominating all mainstream discussions. In Australia pushed for by the Greens themselves, now capitalist neoliberals like their German counterparts. Last Sunday’s so-called ‘national day of action’ by mainstream climate change groups coudn’t come up with any better demands either. Oh my God.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on November 22, 2013.

7 Responses to “The Carbon Trade Fairy Tale”

  1. James Hanson and others are advocating Tax and Dividend, where carbon tax is handed back to consumers on a progressive schedule. I am so cynical at this point I just have no confidence any of these schemes can be implemented or that they will really prove to be solutions.

    It’s just as obvious that a UN process is a waste of time and would urge protestors NOT to go to COP 20.

    I read these studies that try to estimate the cost of externalities ( for a ton of coal for example) but it is just this subjective number in a wide range with all these factors and contingencies. The market cannot save us but the logic is hegemonic. And doing nothing is not an option. “Trouble ahead, trouble behind”

    • Yep. Neither green capitalism nor Green Manhattan Project nor social revolution seem very likely at the moment, do they Dave. But reality is inherently surprising, right? Meanwhile we try and work on the minds of the progressives to nudge them an inch further I guess, hard work hard work. Meanwhile gotta net my fruit trees against my avian competitors, who get about 50% even when I do, the bastards.[BTW wondering whether IOPS has finally karked it, not only technically… Sam Beckett: ‘No symbols where none intended’. At some point I imagine someone will have to point to the elephant in the room and ask if the IOPS experiment has failed].

  2. Trading schemes and taxes etc etc, the whole debate is irrelevant. There is no way the global transnational elite will allow regulations or taxes high enough to undermine the economic base on for their ongoing (and never ending) project of capital accumulation depend on. But that project must cease if we are to solve climate and other problems! The only thing that counts is whether or not we can build a movement that is forcefully arguing for, demonstrating and building a new society based on localism, co-operation, egalitarianism and simpler living standards. IOPS looked promising, but it is missing vital ingredients in my view…But we won’t do it? we don’t have time? Probably right but, as the late Maggie Thatcher said, TINA!

  3. The conceptual foundation of Participatory Society is alive and well in small enclaves, like Missoula Mt ( though there is plenty of lively debate) or Victoria, but the mass organization? It is really a shame none of the intellectual luminaries could be bothered to join a discussion or do some cheerleading. I feel terrible for Michael Albert, even ZNet is struggling. The highlight of the whole project was the discussion at EARTH project, IMO.

    The problem with small enclaves, and this goes to Jonathan’s point about localism, is that energy is so diffuse, there is no challenge to real power structures. Other than perhaps at the discursive level. We are forced into alliances and coalitions and “blocs” with progressives whose demands ( and understandings) are often from the 60’s, or 30’s! IOPS, with all it’s issues, at least had a clear, uncompromising critique.

    If you get a chance, read Nick Englefried’s latest on ZNet. This is the anti-coal export group I work with, folks who believe small acts of civil disobedience will force Big Coal to give up its business plan or Montana to give up major tax revenue and jobs.

    By the way Peter, I was inspired by your piece on democracy to riff in a more philosophical vein here at

    • Great, Dave. I’ll try and read Nick’s piece soon. Important work, stopping coal, while we’re sitting around waiting for the Godot of revolution. I’ve put your blog on my blogroll, that way we can stay in touch if/when IOPS finally folds.

  4. Stopping coal is important, of course, but I should be clear that I don’t think the groups tactic of small scale, local civil disobedience will be effective. I work on them to think bigger, to actually “want what they truly desire” as Zizek puts it. The institutional inertia just grinds local groups up. The politicians and regulators will invite them into “discussions” and there will be more “studies” and more “safeguards” will be put in place, right? Meanwhile, investors keep investing, permits get approved and the juggernaut marches on. It is tricky being a left dissident in these local groups though, because they so want incremental change, any change, so they can maintain “hope”.

    • Know where you’re coming from Dave. Been there too. But, here’s the other side. How can most local activists learn about ‘institutional inertia’ except by fighting the institutions? Social learning by doing. Could it be your role to help speed up that process? If all countries, say, were covered by networks of communicating groups practising small scale civil disobedience against local corporate destruction, as well starting to build their own direct-democratic and sustainable alternatives, would not that be something quite extraordinary/revolutionary, help buy time and slow the ecocidal juggernaut, help subjectively change activists into revolutionaries etc? I had hoped IOPS might be able to play a catalytic and supportive role in such possible grassroots networks, but I don’t think that’s the vision most in IOPS have at this point. Most seem very inexperienced in any kind of activism and/or ‘like button’ followers. Fair enough, but ‘celebrity cook’ Nigella Lawson has about half a million of those, whil IOPS is having trouble getting 3500…C’est la vie au spectacle totalitaire.

      BTW old situationist Ken Knabb has a very positive interpretation of the US Occupy movement which you’ll find at his Bureau of Public Secrets website:, do you know it? Maybe you disagree.

      Here’s part of his take on Occupy, the role of radicals and their ‘anti-capitalist’ perspective, which I would also agree with (I’ve italicised the main point):

      “During the first few days, many anarchists and other leftists contemptuously dismissed the Occupy movement as mere “liberal reformism.” To their credit, once they realized that this was in fact a major and in some ways unprecedented radical mass movement, most of them dropped their preconceptions and took part in it with an open mind, to see what they might learn as well as what they might teach. But some persisted in seeing the struggle in terms of their old ideological perspectives — as if the most important thing was how many people they could win over to an explicitly “anticapitalist” or “antistate” perspective. As I stressed in the “Awakening” leaflet, I think the dynamic of a popular movement is far more important than its ostensible ideological positions. It is quite natural that people react against particular grievances without waiting until it becomes feasible to envision more fundamental social changes. Moreover, they are unlikely to ever arrive at the latter stage if they have never tested their strength or developed their critical capacities in more immediate struggles. Once they are engaged in this process they will soon enough figure out for themselves if they need to go further. Virtually every revolution in history has passed through such phases. To take just one striking example, in early 1789 the French people were asked to submit complaints or demands that their representatives could bring to a national meeting of the Estates. These “Cahiers de Doléances” (Registries of Grievances) raised hundreds of different issues, but they were virtually all in the form, “The King should change this or that law . . . The King should abolish this or that tax . . . The King should order the nobles to stop doing this or that . . .” A superficial observer might have concluded that the movement was not only totally reformist, but totally monarchist! Yet a few months later the Bastille had fallen and three years later the King had been beheaded.”

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