Circus Act


Earlier this year, global carbon markets were valued at a record breaking $277 billion. The number contrasts strikingly with this summer’s wave of devastating fires, many of which proliferated precisely in protected forests designed to offset carbon emissions from other industries.

In a 2019 book, GARETH BRYANT traces the history of carbon offset markets, considering how their institutionalization has altered climate-related political contestation.

From the text:

“The policy predecessor to carbon markets was sulphur dioxide trading in the United States. From the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Authority began to introduce elements of emissions trading in its regulation of pollution. Growing support for the market-based approach vis-à-vis ‘command and control’ measures among sections of government, business and non-government environmental organisations resulted in amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 that established a nation-wide sulphur dioxide trading scheme. The scheme’s key innovation was that, within the overall cap, emissions allowances allocated or auctioned to certain power plants could be traded to cover the pollution of other power plants.

US negotiators extolled the cost-efficiency of tradeable permits in advancing their goal of ‘binding but flexible’commitments in the Kyoto Protocol. The US overcame opposition from the EU by making the inclusion of carbon trading instruments a condition for agreement on key European demands for binding emissions reduction targets. It also successfully overturned opposition from developing countries through the transformation of Brazil’s clean development fund into a mechanism where emissions reductions from clean development projects in developing countries could be sold to developed countries and count towards their targets. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was thus born.”

Link to the book.

  • “Our analysis reveals dynamic connections between the green corporate social responsibility (CSR) claims of the UK’s EDF Energy, and the unsustainable realities of a CDM certified installation in India—the refrigerant gas producing factory of Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited.” Steffen Bohm, Vinicius Brei, and Siddhartha Dabhi scrutinize carbon commodity chains. Link.
  • An edited volume by Jørgen Wettestad and Lars H. Gulbrandsen compares the development and operations of world’s nine largest carbon market systems. Link.
  • In his PhD dissertation, William Lock investigates how “schemes which produce carbon credits for sale in voluntary markets undermine local development, emissions reductions and biodiversity conservation in San Martin, Peru.” Link. And in an article from last year, Wendy Miles recounts local experiences of the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership in Indonesia. Link.


Wrongful Discharge Laws

In a 2019 paper, visiting professor of economics at Grand Valley State University ERIC HOYT studies the impact of wrongful discharge laws on employment and wages.

From the text:

“This paper estimates the effect of wrongful discharge laws, a court-based form of employment protection, on real wages. Theoretical literature argues that employment protection policies like wrongful discharge laws raise employers’ firing costs, leading to an inward shift in labor demand that pulls down both workers’ wages and employment levels. I find that one wrongful discharge law in particular, the good faith doctrine, increases average real wages by 2.34 percent for all private-sector workers, 3.33 percent for private manufacturing workers, 1.96 percent for private nonmanufacturing workers, 3.25 percent for women, 2.37 percent for men, 3.93 percent for nonwhite workers, and 2.81 percent for white workers in the private-sector over all of the years these policies are in place. My results show that wrongful discharge laws, whether by increasing workers’ bargaining power or by increasing their labor productivity, boost workers’ wages, particularly for low wage workers, women, and workers in the manufacturing and logistics industries, where unions have been traditionally strong and workers occupy key nodes in production and supply chains.

Link to the paper, link to Hoyt’s website.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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  • “Central bank independence was formally instituted in many economies in the 1990s and is often associated with the ‘Third Way’ of that decade. But CBI has a much longer history.” New on PW, Aditi Sahasrabuddhe on the history of central bank independence and cooperation. Link.
  • We’re hiring for our CUNY-Phenomenal World paid fall editorial internship, open to all CUNY undergraduates. Please share widely, and find more information on how to apply here.
  • “To fully exit our current disaster and move toward something resembling a fair society, we must do three things: plan, spend and build. We must become the developer.” In Noema Magazine, JFI Fellow Paul Williams explores the potential for public housing to solve the housing crisis. Link.
  • “Climate scientists have long emphasized the importance of climate tipping points like thawing permafrost, ice sheet disintegration, and changes in atmospheric circulation. Yet, climate economics has either ignored them or represented them in highly stylized ways.” Simon Dietz, James Rising, Thomas Stoerk, and Gernot Wagner provide unified estimates of the economic cost of climate tipping points. Link to the paper, and link to Wagner’s writeup in Bloomberg.
  • Martin Bekker examines 150,000 police-reported events of protest in South Africa between 1997 and 2013. Link.
  • Jon Sward, Niranjali Amerasinghe, Andrew Bunker and Jo Walker on reforms to IMF surveillance policy in service of a just climate change transition. Link.
  • Georgina Drew investigates local resistance and ideas of rural development surrounding a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Uttar Pradesh, India. Link.
  • “[This essay] examines the formation of a national economy as a controversial economic and political project that pitted eastern capitalists against western populists.” Noam Maggor on market-making in the American West. Link. And see a PW essay from Maggor and Anton Jäger on the American populist movement and central banking. Link.
  • Christian Dustmann, Attila Lindner, Uta Schönberg, Matthias Umkehrer, and Philipp vom Berge on the reallocation effects of a minimum wage in Germany. Link.
  • “During the early twentieth century the Japanese weaving industry experienced significant technological and organizational changes, which involved both the diffusion of the power loom and the the factory system. This study finds that production value per worker was around two times larger in factories compared with weavers and outworkers under the putting-out system, after controlling for the technological difference. This difference is supposed to reflect the difference in the mode of work—that is, working hours and work intensity—between factories and weavers and outworkers. Meanwhile, production per worker was two to three times larger for powered factories than non-powered factories, other things being equal. Thus, the magnitude of the impact of organizational difference was almost comparable to that of technological difference.” By Tetsuji Okazaki. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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