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Counting carbon or counting coal? Anchoring climate governance in fossil fuel-based accountability frameworks

Green, Fergus ORCID: 0000-0001-5317-6016 and Kuch, Declan (2021) Counting carbon or counting coal? Anchoring climate governance in fossil fuel-based accountability frameworks. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Paper (368). Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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For decades, the object of international climate governance has been greenhouse gases, standardised to tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent. The ongoing inadequacy of decarbonisation efforts based on this system have prompted calls to expand the scope of international climate governance to include restrictions on the supply of fossil fuels. Such initiatives could rely on accountability frameworks based on fossil fuel reserves, production, or infrastructure, yet to date there has been little consideration of the different implications for climate governance of each of these options. We seek to inform such discussions by undertaking a sociotechnical analysis of various existing schemes for the monitoring, reporting and verification of fossil fuels. We identify serious risks from anchoring climate governance in fossil fuel reserves: the extensive role for expert judgement that enters into the construction of reserves figures, and the exclusive control of reserves evaluation and classification practices by profit-motivated firms in the fossil fuel industry, raise serious risks of “gaming”; moreover, the fact that reserves figures are in part a function of climate governance outcomes means reserve-based climate governance would face an endogeneity problem. More promising directions for supply-side climate governance, we find, lie in accountability frameworks based on a combination of fossil fuel production volumes and infrastructure, since infrastructure and production-related transactions are more transparent to a wider range of actors. Crucially, this transparency would provide much-needed opportunities for democratic oversight of the data underpinning climate governance efforts, opening up new channels for holding states to account for their climate performance.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2021 09:45
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:55

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