Emissions trading is the governmentally promoted hope for a sustainable world. In different contexts, trading regimes display varying potential – both in absolute terms and in comparison with other regulatory instruments. Emissions trading, however, is a device that raises urgent issues regarding its objectives, cost-effectiveness, fairness, transparency, and legitimacy. Its use places emphasis on its “acceptability” and the virtues of regulation that is “lite” because it is non-threatening to the most powerful interests. Emissions trading is resonant with assumptions that are highly contentious – notably that it is acceptable because it involves no losers, or because, in desperate global circumstances, we have no choice but to use it. There is a need to confront the difficult issues presented by emissions trading and to face the challenges of combining “market” and “democratic” systems of legitimization. It is also necessary to avoid taking refuge in all too comfortable beliefs in cumulative checks and balances
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