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Wim Carton

Wim Carton

Senior Lecturer, Docent

Wim Carton

Fictitious Carbon, Fictitious Change? : Environmental Implications of the Commodification of Carbon


  • Wim Carton

Summary, in English

Governments increasingly rely on the use of market instruments to tackle climate change and help decarbonize a deeply fossil fuel-dependent economy. This dissertation examines this trend as one instance of the ‘commodification of carbon’, or the process through which emission reductions are made into commodities and then traded on the market. It engages the commodification framework and related theoretical perspectives to scrutinize the environmental outcomes that market instruments engender, and how these can be theorized. Three cases are examined: the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, the Flemish tradable green certificate scheme, and Trees for Global Benefits, a community-based offsetting project situated in western Uganda. The environmental outcomes of each of these cases can be summarized by pointing to the specific spatiotemporal dynamics that they (re)produce. On the one hand, this dissertation shows that market instruments are prone to problem displacement because of the broader socioeconomic imperatives within which they operate. On the other hand, it argues for recognition of the specific temporality that is implied when environmental regulation is subsumed to market dynamics. Because of their prioritization of the cheapest and easiest solutions, market instruments bring the pace and form of decarbonization in line with what is deemed economically feasible, rather than with what is scientifically necessary. It is argued that this occurs at least in part because of the way that market instruments interact with the conditioning effects of our wider socioecological surroundings, specifically the way in which social power is materialized in the contemporary fossil fuel landscape. Due recognition of these dynamics offers insights on the political role that market instruments fulfill, why such instruments prove to be so popular, and what the conditions are for developing feasible alternatives.


  • Department of Human Geography

Publishing year





Meddelande från Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi. Avhandlingar



Document type



Lund University


  • Human Geography


  • commodification
  • climate change policy
  • emissions trading
  • market instruments
  • environmental geography




  • Eric Clark
  • Guy Baeten


  • ISBN: 978-91-7623-909-4
  • ISBN: 978-91-7623-908-7

Defence date

23 September 2016

Defence time


Defence place

Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund


  • Noel Castree (Professor)