Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Climate Finance: some key resources

Anyone pondering the clear family resemblance between carbon trading and high finance is probably, unless they actually have a background in finance, totally confused.  I know I am.  What exactly is a swap?  A future?  Why is the Black-Scholes equation the foundation of an entirely novel economy in which the very nature of value is under question?  I'll point you to two great resources: one just published and one from 2009.

What's clear is that the evolution of carbon markets (and potentially ecosystem service markets) is an extension of the development of novel financial products since the 1980s which led to much higher trade volumes in derivatives than in the actual underlying physical commodities.  Since the financial world learned how to create commodities in risk separate from the thing experiencing the risk (that is, a mortgage is now a different commodity than the risk of a default on that mortgage), the environment has been increasingly parsed out into tranches of essentially unknowable risk and unquantifiable underlyings.  Oscar Reyes at the Climate Finance and Markets site had produced a new reader to guide us through the financial jungle -- he was kind enough to include a piece of mine that originally appeared on EcosystemMarketplace.com.

Of course, everything that comes out of The Corner House is golden, mainly for the accessibility and clarity of its arguments.  See here for their incredibly useful and crystal-clear explanation of the concept and politics behind the term "overpopulation".  On carbon and finance, they have a report out from 2009 which carefully and clearly connects the dots between carbon markets and financial markets, and which should be required reading for all carbon enthusiasts and skeptics alike.  My only nit to pick is the unnecessarily polemical title, but the subtitle, "Learning about Climate Policy from the Financial Crisis," works just fine.  Larry Lohmann and the rest of The Corner House writers are always worth following.

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