Climate change mitigation necessitates substantial alterations to patterns of worldwide economic activity and there are profound political, economic and ethical questions surrounding the governance of the means, rate and location of change. Within advanced capitalist economies and internationally through the UNFCCC there have been efforts to introduce emissions trading systems since the early 1990s.
This project has investigated the development, constitution and consequences of institutions for the production, exchange and consumption of credits for emissions reductions. Such credits are financial instruments awarded to organisations for putative reductions in emissions from “business as usual''.
In consumption they perpetuate continued high emissions activities by neutralising environmental regulation. I argue that crediting is a socially contingent process of commodification not a simple rearrangement of physical pollution. In a reversal of the carbon traders aphorism, I describe the ways in which a tonne is not a tonne, is not a tonne.