January 9, 2020

Net-Zero Commitments Make Madrid Carbon Market Letdown More Critical

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

For the second consecutive year, negotiations over international carbon markets broke down at the United Nations' annual climate conference.

COP25 in Madrid began in December with Article 6 on international mitigation cooperation as the only unfinished section of a rulebook for executing the Paris Agreement. A year of advance work and two weeks of deliberation proved insufficient, and Article 6 will again be front and center at COP26 in Glasgow in 2020.

While almost impenetrably technical on the surface, Article 6 reveals fundamental differences in how countries see the climate change problem and their responsibility for solving it, writes Jackson Ewing, senior fellow at at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, in a post on the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition's blog.

With the uncertainty around Article 6, the risk is that the increasing number of net-zero emissions targets being made by countries and businesses become a romantic panacea used to defer difficult internal abatement measures in favor of market measures that will struggle to give an accurate account of the global emissions ledger, Ewing writes. Avoiding this scenario and enjoying the virtues markets can bring begins with finding enough common ground on how such markets work across borders to give confidence that a ton reduced is real, unique, and can reliably be accounted for on the international stage.

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