Emissions trading has become a key component of U.S. environmental legal regimes. The U.S. has successfully lobbied to make the trading of international environmental benefits-an expanded form of emissions trading-a part of international efforts to address the threat of global climate change through the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to that Convention. Legal scholars have lauded emissions trading as a "free lunch" that will encourage innovation, enhance democratic accountability, and reduce the cost of environmental cleanup. This article argues that emissions trading functions as a cheap fix, reducing short-term costs while tending to lessen innovation and thwart democratic accountability. Because of this, emissions trading will ultimately weaken efforts to address complex environmental problems, unless policymakers carefully limit trading programs to make sure that they do not undermine innovation and democratic accountability. The author recommends specific limits to international emissions trading designed to avoid undermining the long-term efficacy of the climate change regime.
David M. Driesen,
Free Lunch or Cheap Fix?: The Emissions Trading Idea and the Climate Change Convention,
B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev.