Many of us have always been sceptical of emissions trading schemes. Stock, futures and currency markets are so full of speculation, manipulation and outright abuse that it’s hard to imagine such a system ever doing something meaningful about Climate change.

The idea simply raises too many questions. Essentially, it privatises pollution in which the legal right to pollute can be bought and sold. Who gets the privilige of spewing greenhouse gasses? Like any kid of private property, the issue of “who gets it first” is essential. Do we award these credits to big polluters based on current emissions? If we do, is that not essentially paying them for being the worst culprits?

The European Union’s markets have not been doing well. Most recently, traders have been outraged at poor press releases by the EU as to policy (which types of emmissions would be banned, and when) which caused some of the biggest swings in carbon price ever. Worse yet, a rash of digital thefts in Eastern Europe have pocketed tens of millions worth of credits. The term “Mickey Mouse Markets” is being thrown around, and I don’t blame anyone who uses it. If not even the traders are happy here, then why are we still embracing this ridiculous notion?

Carbon-trading markets represent everything which is wrong with the modern use of the term market. Every aspect of these markets is crafted by governments and corporations to reflect their interests, and create a playing field in which they can still maintain control. What is bought, sold and traded is not real goods, but state-enforced control over production processes (their emissions). There’s nothing free or fair about the trade that takes place on carbon markets – any more than there is on currency or stock markets. You can never have free or fair trade when some players start out with thousands more chips than others.

If people can’t recognize the economic incentives to not pollute which already exist, a pittance from carbon markets won’t change anything. I’d love to be paid for riding my bike instead of owning a car, but in reality, I am. It saves me the better part of a thousand dollars a month. Pollution does’t happen by accident – it happens because twisted regulation schemes of “property ownership” promote it. And another one of these twisted schemes isn’t an answer.

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