Performative Equations and Neoliberal Commodification: The Case of Climate

By Larry Lohmann, 25 June 2013
Image: Tamra Gilbertson, Forest destruction for agrofuels, Sumatra Indonesia,

In Vol 3 #4, Mute attempted to wrap its collective brain around the steep abstractions of one of capitalism’s strangest products: HFT algorithms. In this article Larry Lohmann, describing capitalism’s process of making unlike things alike, extends the analysis to cutting-edge attempts by states and markets to commodify climate


What is commodification? Since the beginning of the neoliberal era in the 1970s, the question – so fundamental for Marx and for modern politics – has arguably become more complicated than ever. The problematic processes traditionally associated with, say, the commodification of land – characterised by Polanyi as ‘one of man’s weirdest undertakings’ – are more than matched in weirdness today by those associated with ongoing efforts to commodify child health, wetland services, genome information products, public services, share prices, species and so forth.i


This text proposes a way of breaking down some of this weirdness into bite-sized chunks, helping to expose some of its inner structure to the light of day. Focusing largely on the moments of ‘making things the same’, crucial to the creation of so many commodities, the method consists of summarising complicated practices of commensuration in thematic performative equations, around each of which accounts of specific methodologies, actors, elisions, institutions, resistances, difficulties and outcomes can then be collected. Equations are used simply because they are a tidy way of expressing the relations of ‘sameness’ that most commodities require for their operation. The equations are performative in the sense that, rather than being true or false descriptions of entrenched states of affairs, they constitute commitments to helping to bring about the equivalences they specify.ii


Case Study – Climate Commodification


The proposed method can be demonstrated through an analysis of recent attempts by states to commodify climate stability and to construct billion dollar markets for the resulting products. Leading examples include the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon market and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.


Key to the commodification of climate is the enclosure of pollution sinks, defined by states in terms of limits on the quantity of particular kinds of molecules that can be emitted. The advantages of this procedure are clear. Molecules can be counted. Molecules come ‘pre-standardised’: they are the same the world over. Molecules can also be laid claim to. So, at least in principle, can the physical entities that absorb them: for example, oceans, trees, or lands that soak up carbon dioxide. Quantifiability and ownability make it possible to buy and sell rights to emit CO2 – essentially, rights to the earth’s carbon-cycling capacity in the oceans, the atmosphere, soil, vegetation, and rock. With quantifiable property claims comes the possibility of systematised market exchange and large-scale accumulation and financialisation of greenhouse-gas pollution sinks as an asset class. As with any commodification process, however, the advantages of the choice of a particular object have a troublesome flip side of ‘overflows’, resistances and contradictions. These, too, can be taxonomised and analysed using performative equations. iii


Molecular Equations and their Discontents


At the most fundamental level, climate service markets are based on the performative equation


climate action = limiting the number of CO2 molecules that can be emitted


This equation summarises a process that continually reframes the climate problem in ways that disentangle it from climate history and the transfer of fossil fuels out of the ground, embedding it instead in neoclassical economics, chemistry and a variety of other quantitative disciplines. Eliding the multiple differences between reducing emissions and addressing the climate crisis, the equation obscures, for example, the difference between stepwise molecule reductions over the short or medium term and actions that integrate into a programme that would result in most remaining fossil fuels being left in the ground permanently – the overriding necessity in addressing climate change. In addition, it ignores the non-linearity and unverifiability of the relationship between any given increment of reduction on the one hand and, on the other, any given increment of climate benefit. Also elided is the difference between molecules that can be classified as ‘survival’ emissions and those that can be classified as ‘luxury’ emissions – an elision that has climatic as well as class consequences, since ‘survival’ emissions tend to have different causes, dynamics and historical accompaniments than do ‘luxury’ emissions.iv


Image: Tamra Gilbertson, 'Agrofuels, No cure for oil addiction' Agrofuels demo in Bonn, Germany 2008,


This foundational equation gives rise to many further equations. For example, once molecular flow management is made into the object of climate action, then the fact that CO2 molecules are identical throughout the world implies that the following equation can also be made into a guiding principle of climate policy:


stopping transfer A of x molecules of CO2 into the atmosphere = stopping transfer B of x molecules of CO2 into the atmosphere.


So, too, then, can its corollaries:


stopping the transfer of x molecules of CO2 into the atmosphere in place A = stopping the transfer of x molecules of CO2 into the atmosphere in place B


stopping the transfer of x molecules of CO2 into the atmosphere through technology A = stopping the transfer of x molecules of CO2 into the atmosphere through technology B




stopping the transfer into the atmosphere of x molecules of CO2 of underground fossil origin = stopping the transfer into the atmosphere of x molecules of CO2 of surface biotic origin


Such equivalences mark practices that allow firms, investors and speculators to benefit from a wide range of cost differentials. If it is cheaper to invest in mandated reductions in place A than in place B, or in reductions that use technology A rather than technology B, then the choice will be obvious for any business; and similarly if it is cheaper to invest in forest conservation than in technologies that use less fossil fuel. Hence the celebrated cost-saving ‘flexibility’ of climate markets in which one ‘reduction’ can be traded for another in what proponents hope will be a maximally liquid trading system.


The molecular focus of the four equations displayed immediately above gives them the rhetorical or mythical power of chemistry.v Who could deny that molecules of CO2 are the same whatever their origins and locations? There is, however, once again a flip side: the appearance of indisputability is achieved only by reframing a question of climate history as one of chemistry. In reality, it tends to make a difference to the trajectory of global warming whether a given reduction in CO2 flows is attained through technology A or technology B, or through industrial restructuring or forest conservation. Equating CO2 reductions that result from different technologies makes it not only possible, but often necessary, to make climatically wrong choices in the name of molecule prices – for example, to reduce molecule flows through routine, cheap efficiency improvements that entrench coal use and delay long term non-fossil investment, or to build destructive hydroelectric dams that do nothing to displace coal and oil, rather than to select for carbon technologies that form an integral part of a long-term programme for phasing out fossil Similarly, the more a policy relies on halting emissions from burning trees, the more it weakens incentives for structural change away from fossil fuel use. The posited coal-tree equivalence is especially significant given two further realities: first, that no increase in biotic carbon on the earth’s land surface would be sufficient to keep out of the atmosphere and the oceans more than a fraction of the comparatively enormous stores of fossil carbon now being transferred to the surface from underground; and second, that the delays in the inevitable decarbonisation of industrial societies enabled by exchanging biotic for fossil carbon make that decarbonisation rapidly more expensive, and thus more daunting, over time.vii


Image: Tamra Gilbertson, Wind Generators in Maharastra State, India,


The equations give rise to other types of blowback as well. For example, making cost per molecule the criterion of choice between technology A and technology B helps pave the way for land-intensive (and thus socially discriminatory) programmes that attempt, at least ostensibly, to replace fossil fuels. Among these are strife-ridden agrofuel schemes in countries such as Brazil, Honduras and Indonesia, as well as wind power projects that lead to land disputes in regions such as Mexico’s Tehuantepec isthmus and Maharashtra state in India. By abstracting from the tendency for pollution to be concentrated in what in the US are called ‘poorer communities of colour’, technology and place neutrality also help ground future capital accumulation in historical patterns of class and racial discrimination, ensuring staunch opposition to carbon markets from networks of underprivileged communities ranging from the California Environmental Justice Movement to India’s National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers.viii Equating fossil and biotic carbon intensifies climate class struggle in the same way, since doing so provides additional economic and ‘scientific’ sanction for extensive commercial plantations that involve land grabs from the poor.ix The ‘cost curves’ that the equation makes possible also tend to abstract from the difference between forest clearing for commercial agriculture on the one hand and, on the other, rotational forest farming that involves subsequent re-growth of forests and storage of carbon – an abstraction that both works against long term forest conservation and facilitates the deskilling of forest dwellers.x In sum, the cost advantages of ‘geographical neutrality’, ‘technology neutrality’ and ‘carbon source neutrality’ each map onto various aspects of ‘mission drift’ in climate markets as an instrument of environmental policy, as well as a number of other severe market-undermining effects.


Offset Equations and the Attack on Non-Expert Agency


Another step in unpacking the new climate commodities involves examining the equations that structure the practices responsible for creating what are known as ‘offsets’. Under the Kyoto Protocol carbon market and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, polluters subject to government emissions caps, as well as funds, banks, or other private or public enterprises, can finance carbon saving projects outside the caps and use the resulting extra pollution rights – offsets – in lieu of emissions reduction obligations, or to sell on to third parties, or to speculate with. Thus:


CO2 reduction under a cap = offset outside the cap


For example, European Union Allowances (EUAs), the emissions permits traded under the EU cap, are exchangeable with Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), which are Kyoto Protocol carbon offsets generated in southern countries outside the European cap:




Offsets thus make possible additional abstractions from place, and widen the scope of possible molecular cost savings from technology choice or forestry. That is, they take the ‘spatial fix’ of cap and trade (which moves pollution around a ‘capped’ landscape to wherever it is cheapest to abate) one step further, to territories not covered by caps, especially the global South, where carbon clean-up is cheaper.xi This multiply boundary-crossing function is reflected in the distinctive equation in which offsets are embedded:


reduction under a cap = ‘avoided’ emission outside the cap


Thus carbon traders or capped polluters in the UK can purchase carbon pollution rights from, say, highly-polluting sponge iron factories in India, provided the factory owners can convince UN regulators that technological improvements have resulted in less CO2 than would have been emitted otherwise, and that this saving is measurable according to approved criteria.xii The cost savings can be considerable. In May 2013, while the price of December 2013 EUA futures had dropped to €3.23, that of CER futures had plummeted to a mere €0.40; such gaps, of course, can also be profitably exploited by speculators.


But in order to arrive at a single amount of ‘carbon saved’ in India that can be priced and substituted for industrial emissions reductions in the UK, a single counterfactual story line must be posited as a baseline. Counterfactual history must be given the same epistemic status as actual history; ‘what would have happened’ in the absence of carbon credit sales must be treated as determinate and quantifiable in the same way that CO2 reductions under a cap are determinate and quantifiable:


actual CO2 reduction = counterfactual CO2 reduction


To make this equation work, the actions of human and nonhuman actors must be modelled deterministically.xiii Two crippling blowbacks immediately follow. One is simply that the calculations cannot be plausibly made.xiv Another is that the investors and experts responsible for offset projects have to be exempted from the deterministic model required for pricing, so that they can be rewarded for making a free choice in what for everyone else is an unalterable course of history.xv


CO2-Equivalence and the Pitfalls of ‘Efficiency’


Climate markets’ focus on molecules also opens up the cost-saving possibility of using greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide in the formation of climate commodities. Here market construction benefits from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which, prompted by the UN’s need for national greenhouse gas accounts as well as by its own molecular preoccupations, has attempted to commensurate CO2 with a range of other greenhouse gases including methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and various chlorofluorocarbons and fluorocarbons including the industrial by-product HFC-23, according to their relative effects on global warming.xvi The results can be symbolised in equations such as the following:


CH4 = 21 × CO2


N2O = 310 × CO2


HFC-23 = 11,700 × CO2


These allow climate commodities to be defined in terms of ‘CO2 equivalent’ (CO2e) rather than just CO2. The consequence is to make the trade in climate services enormously more ‘efficient’ and profitable, both for fossil fuel users and for dealers in pollution permits. For instance, cheaply burning off just one ton of CH4 from an industrial pig farm in Mexico can generate saleable rights to release 21 tons of CO2 in Europe, while merely by destroying, at relatively minimal cost, a few thousand tons of HFC-23, the Mexican chemical manufacturer Quimobasicos is set to sell over 30 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution rights to Goldman Sachs, EcoSecurities, and the Japanese electricity generator J-Power.xvii Industrial buyers of the rights can in turn save even greater sums by using the rights in lieu of paying fines for not meeting their legal emissions requirements. Today, the clean-up of HFC-23 and N2O can often generate more profit for their manufacturers than the primary products of the processes that release the compounds, creating perverse incentives to make global warming worse.xviii


Image: Tamra Gilbertson, Tehri Dam, Uttarakhand, India 2006,


A further difficulty is that devising performative equations linking diverse greenhouse gases requires a great deal of fudging, leading to continuing technical disputes. Each greenhouse gas behaves qualitatively differently in the atmosphere and over different time spans, and the control of each has a different effect on fossil fuel use; the IPCC winds up revising its calculations of the CO2-calibrated ‘global warming potential’ of various gases every few years, and insists on giving gases different scores over 20-year, 100-year and 500-year time horizons. But even such token caveats cannot be accommodated by a market that requires a single, stable number in order to make exchange possible. The UN carbon market, for example, disregards the IPCC’s recent revisions in the numbers used to commensurate different greenhouse gases, discards 20-year and 500-year figures, and ignores the often enormous ‘error bands’ specified by the IPCC (in the case of HFC-23, plus or minus 5000 CO2-equivalents).


Ownership and Deresponsibilisation


If there is to be a market in CO2 emissions reductions, someone must ‘produce’ them, and someone must buy them. To put it another way, if there is to be a market in greenhouse gas pollution dumps, someone must make them scarce, someone must ‘own’ them, and someone must ‘rent’ them. Setting up this apparatus can only be the job of states, who must impose both the need for reductions (by making pollution dumps scarce) and define the means of ‘producing’ or owning them. States achieve the former by imposing ‘caps’ or limits on emissions on companies or economic sectors. To accomplish the latter (that is, create a reduction commodity), they need a further performative equation:


regulated reduction of CO2 emissions to level c within time period p = tradeable right to emit CO2 up to level c by the end of period p


Carbon dioxide reductions (and by inference, climate action) are accordingly stipulated to be achieved by the production of tradeable pollution rights, whose scarcity is determined by government fiat. Progressive carbon dioxide reductions are in turn held to be achieved by relying on an additional equation:


reducing CO2 emissions progressively through regulation = issuing fewer tradeable rights to emit CO2 in period p + 1 than were issued in period p


The producers or owners of these rights are, in the first instance, states themselves. European Union Allowances, for example, are ‘produced’ in preset amounts by the pens or keystrokes of European politicians and bureaucrats. Historically, these allowances have been given away free to large private sector polluters, with a certain amount of auctioning now being phased in. Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), one of the climate commodities of the Kyoto Protocol carbon market, are meanwhile ‘produced’ by conferences of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change before being distributed, again free of charge, to the national governments of industrialised countries.


The overflow effects of ‘performing’ these two equations are again severe. First, equating reductions with saleable property rights detaches the new markets from their ostensible purpose. As fossil fuel use becomes more deeply entrenched through a ‘polluter earns’ system, the preoccupation with price discovery de-emphasises the long-term structural change demanded by global warming. All things being equal, corporations will choose cheaper alternatives, but if long-term structural alternatives to fossil fuel use are not available, not even the highest prices can compel anyone to choose them; on the contrary, high prices are likely to incite revolts against the trading system’s design. Yet low prices have never been historical drivers of the kind of structural change that global warming demands. The EU ETS is no exception, having failed to incentivise any investment away from fossil fuels even in the one sector, electricity generation, that has been consistently short of emissions rights.xix


Image: Tamra Gilbertson, Eucalyptus worker in field, Espírito Santo, Brazil 2012 Eucalyptus plantations destroy biodiversity and displace indigenous and forest dependent communities. Nothing about eucalyptus plantations are sustainable yet the expansion continues as the demand for biofuels in the North increases.,


Second, the performative equations above embed, in the institutions surrounding climate markets, a far-reaching capillary system of practices that, at all levels, deresponsibilises industrial societies with regard to global warming. For example, instead of being fined for exceeding Kyoto Protocol emissions targets (which, as Herbert Docena points out, implies the commission of an offense), industrialised country signatories are encouraged to buy extra pollution permits from abroad to compensate for their failure (an action which connotes the acquisition of an entitlement).xx At the same time, in Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Guyana and many other southern countries, governments are incentivised by carbon markets not to promulgate or enforce environmental laws (which attribute responsibility for harm to defendants) but instead to allow their societies to remain dirty in order to be able to sell pollution rights from subsequent clean-up programmes. Tens of thousands of experts, traders, bankers, lawyers, accountants, consultants and bureaucrats working in a US$100 billion global market setting fuel emission proxy factors, commenting on carbon project design documents, formulating schedules and criteria for payments for forest conservation certificates, making submissions to UN carbon market regulators, hedging investments, buying land, tallying molecules, balancing accounts, establishing ownership and discovering prices, continually produce and reproduce deresponsibilisation in each of the offices and arenas they work in. Rich nations are thereby transformed from climate offenders or debtors into climate leaders or benefactors. Unsurprisingly, this colonialist resurgence has provoked strong opposition to the new climate commodities from social movements and activists in both Northern and Southern nations.xxi


Conclusion: Internalisation and Regulation


The strenuous commodifying processes of simplification, abstraction, quantification, propertisation and so forth reflected in performative equations constitute the deep structure of the attempted ‘internalisation of environmental and social externalities’ that is the public face of the market environmentalism characteristic of the neoliberal era. These processes continually reinterpret and transform the challenges they confront; their goals are never exogenous but are incessantly reshaped by the very process of addressing them. Internalising externalities through commodity formation gives rise to fresh externalities that continually undermine the internalisation project from an environmental perspective.


Breaking commodification processes down into bite-sized chunks using performative equations helps give substance to the intuition that commodification has many forms, dynamics and degrees. It may also help activists choose effective tactics regarding regulation. Should regulation try to revise, elaborate and extend the contradictory performative equations that underpin the new ecosystem commodities, as is implied by most critical writings on climate markets?xxii Or should it aim at progressively ‘deactivating’ some set of these equations? This article has suggested that ‘reform’ of any particular equation is likely only to give its contradictions ‘more room to move’, to adapt Marx’s resonant phrase.xxiii It has tried, in short, to unfold some elements in the core of strategic sense behind many a recent anti-commodification slogan, whether ‘our Earth is not for sale’, ‘I am not your ATM’, or ‘tu no puedes comprar el sol’.xxiv




Larry Lohmann works with the solidarity and research organisation The Corner House ( and is the author of many articles and books on the politics of environment




i Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 2001 [1944].

ii J. L. Austin, ‘Performative Utterances’, in Austin, Philosophical Papers, J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962, pp.233-52; Donald MacKenzie, ‘Making Things the Same: Gases, Emission Rights and the Politics of Carbon Markets’, Accounting, Organizations and Society 34 (3-4), 2006, pp.440-455.

iii Michel Callon, ‘An Essay on Framing and Overflowing: Economic Externalities Revisited by Sociology’, in Michel Callon (ed.), The Laws of the Markets. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998, pp.244–269.

iv Anil Agrawal and Sunita Narain, Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism. New Delhi: Centre for Science and Environment, 1991.

v M. J. Zbaracki, Pricing Structure and Structuring Price, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

vi David Driesen, The Economic Dynamics of Environmental Law, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003; Margaret Taylor, ‘Innovation under Cap and Trade Programs’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (13), 2012, pp.4804-09.

vii Brendan Mackey, I. Colin Prentice, Will Steffen, Joanna I. House, David Lindenmayer, Heather Keith and Sandra Berry, ‘Untangling the Confusion around Land Carbon Science and Climate Change Mitigation Policy’, Nature Climate Change 3, 2013, pp.552–557.

viii California Environmental Justice Movement EJ Matters website, 2010,; Mausam: Indian Climate Change Magazine, Kolkata: NESPON, 2008 and 2009,,

ix H. Gregersen, H. El Lakany, A. Karsenty and A. White, ‘Does the Opportunity Cost Approach Indicate the Real Cost of REDD+? Rights and Realities of Paying for REDD+’, Washington: Rights and Resources Initiative, 2010; Melissa Leach, James Fairhead and James Fraser, ‘Green Grabs and Biochar: Revaluing African Soils and Farming in the New Carbon Economy’, Journal of Peasant Studies 39 (2), 2012, pp.285–307.

x Nathaniel Dyer and Simon Counsell, McREDD: How McKinsey ‘Cost-Curves’ are Distorting REDD. London: Rainforest Foundation, 2010; Rebecca Sommer, ‘Pirakuma Yawalapiti, Xingu Spokesperson, about Carbon Trading’ Video interview. Xingu River, Brazil, 2010,,

xi David Harvey, ‘Globalization and the “Spatial Fix”’. Geographische Revue 2, 2001, pp.23-30; Patrick Bond, ‘Climate Justice Politics across Space and Scale’, Human Geography 3 (2), 2010, pp.49-62.

xii Similarly, forest carbon projects can generate carbon credits even if they allow an increase in deforestation, as long as the increase is ‘less than would have happened otherwise’. See, e.g., American Carbon Registry, ‘Methodology for REDD: Avoiding Planned Deforestation’, Arlington: Winrock International, 2011,

xiii The commitment to recasting political debate about alternative futures as disputes about the correctness of technical predictions chimes, of course, with more general postwar trends favouring forecasting and ‘apolitical’ ideals of social control as well as what policy science scholar James A. Throgmorton calls ways of imagining ‘politicians and advocacy groups to be irrelevant agents’ (‘Survey Research as Rhetorical Trope: Electric Power Planning Arguments in Chicago’, in Frank Fischer and John Forester (Eds.), The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning, Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, pp. 117-144). It also parallels a more recent trend in the financial markets towards ‘mechanised’ storytelling about the future through mathematical models, whether those models are used as confidence building devices (J. Beckert, ‘Imagined Futures. Fictionality in Economic Action’, Discussion Paper 11/8, Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung, Köln, 2011,; technologies of a new, credit ratings-dominated, pattern of investment (A. Ouroussoff, A., Wall Street at War, London: Polity, 2010); or actual engines of mass production of certain commodities (G. Tett, Fools Gold, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009).

xiv Financial institutions’ misunderstandings of the scope of prediction (identified by, among many others, George Soros in The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means, New York: Public Affairs, 2008) become an inescapable structural component in the carbon offset markets, as Kevin Anderson (2011) of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change research has pointed out (‘Offsetting [& CDM]: A Guarantee for 100 Years or Just a Clever Scam? From a Climate Change Perspective, is Offsetting Worse than Doing Nothing?’, Manchester: University of Manchester, 2012, Hence the unending methodological agony of offset accountancy experts such as Michael Gillenwater, who asks ‘What does it mean for an offset project to be real? What would an unreal offset project be? How could we tell if it was unreal, and is this something we should be concerned about?’ (‘Getting Real about “Real” Carbon Offsets’, Washington: Greenhouse Gas Institute, 2012,

xv The denial of workers’ and farmers’ capability to create their own history is, of course, a move familiar from the annals of colonial and postcolonial history, as well as of neoclassical economic theory, and is resisted in the carbon markets as it has been resisted historically. For a Brazilian case, see, for example, FASE, ‘Open Letter to Executives and Investors in the Prototype Carbon Fund’, Espiritu Santo: FASE, 23 May 2003.

xvi Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

xvii United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Risoe Centre, ‘CDM Pipeline’ (spreadsheet), 2010,

xviii Fred Pearce, ‘Carbon Trading Tempts Firms to Make Greenhouse Gas’. New Scientist, 16 December 2010.; Michael Szabo, ‘Kyoto May Push Factories to Pollute More: UN Report’, Reuters, 2 July 2010; Lambert Schneider, ‘Perverse Incentives under the CDM: An Evaluation of HFC-23 Destruction Projects’, Climate Policy 11 (2), 2011, pp.851-864.

xix Deutsche Bank, ‘The Long and Short of It: Power Sector Key to EUA and CER Prices’, Carbon Emissions Commodities Report, London: Deutsche Bank, 5 May 2009.

xx Herbert Docena, ‘Guilt, Blame, and Innocence in the International Climate Change Negotiations: The (Im)moral Origins of the Global Carbon Market,’ unpublished paper, University of California, Berkeley, September 2011.

xxi Isaac Osuoka, ‘Paying the Polluter? The Relegation of Local Community Concerns in ‘Carbon Credit’ Proposals of Oil Corporations in Nigeria’, unpublished manuscript, April 2009; Herbert Docena, The CDM in the Philippines: Costly, Dirty, Money-Making Schemes, Bangkok: Focus on the Global South, 2010.

xxii For example, S. Perdan and A. Azapagic, ‘Carbon Trading: Current Schemes and Future Developments’, Energy Policy 39, 2011, pp.6040-54; Adam Bumpus, ‘The Matter of Carbon: Understanding the Materiality of tCO2e in Carbon Offsets’, Antipode 43 (3), 2011, pp.612-638; Peter Newell and Matthew Paterson, Climate Capitalism: Global Warming and the Transformation of the Global Economy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

xxiiiKarl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes, London: Penguin, 1990 [1867], p.198.

xxiv ‘Our Earth is not for sale’ is the title of a pamphlet by Friends of the Earth International, ‘I am not your ATM’ a slogan by Occupy protesters in Zuccotti Square in New York, and ‘tu no puedes comprar el sol’ (‘you cannot buy the sun’) a felicitous line in a popular anticapitalist anthem by the Puerto Rican group Calle 13. This article has benefited from discussions with and comments from Oscar Reyes, Steve Suppan, Andres Barreda, Jutta Kill, Ricardo Coelho, Hendro Sangkoyo, Martin Bitter, Esperanza Martinez, Ivonne Yanez, Matthew Paterson, Silvia Ribeiro, Raul Garcia, John Saxe Fernandez, Herbert Docena, Patrick Bond, John O’Neill, Erik Swyngedouw, Mark Schapiro. Wolfram Dressler, Rob Fletcher and Bram Buschler, as well as friends at the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. Much of the material has been previously published in Capitalism Nature Socialism and Socialist Register.