CARBON OF CONVENIENCE AND ACCOUNTING TRANSPARENCY: CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE OF CLIMATE POLICY
Assistant Professor of Marine Policy, University of Maine
Climate Change Institute Lecture Series
Friday, January 27, 2017 at 2 PM
138 Sawyer Conference Room
Abstract: As humanity has entered the Anthropocene, the challenges posed by rapid anthropogenic global change have resulted in the emergence of new governance approaches for managing the disruption of the carbon cycle, from carbon and sustainability accounting to the valuation of ecosystem carbon storage in decision-making. Institutionally, the construction of these approaches is taking place globally across scales, from the creation of a new international climate regime in the wake of the Paris Agreement, to the federal government’s greenhouse gas accounting practices, to states and local municipalities engaged in planning for the impacts of climate change. Yet our understanding of what makes such new governance approaches successful and what kinds of scientific information are needed to inform them is still nascent, and the implications of approaches to carbon accounting and ecological valuation for environmental justice are only just being assessed. In this talk, I first assess the current treatment of carbon cycle science in federal environmental impact statements. Based on the empirical analysis of thousands of policy documents, I argue that our current agency environmental management practices have made normative an approach to ecosystem carbon that invokes implicit offsetting — something I term carbon of convenience. Second, I analyze the evolution of carbon accounting in the international climate policy regime, with an eye toward future challenges in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. At the core of the challenges highlighted in these two case studies is a central focus on the ways in which climate change science information and climate change feedbacks are incorporated into both new and existing governance frameworks, through both top-down and bottom-up approaches.
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