Fraud Risk and the Visibility of Carbon

Peter Martin, Reece Walters


In recent years, carbon has been increasingly rendered ‘visible’ both discursively and through political processes that have imbued it with economic value. Greenhouse gas emissions have been constructed as social and environmental costs and their reduction or avoidance as social and economic gain. The ‘marketisation’ of carbon, which has been facilitated through various compliance schemes such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, the Kyoto Protocol, the proposed Australian Emissions Reduction Scheme and through the voluntary carbon credit market, have attempted to bring carbon into the ‘foreground’ as an economic liability and/or opportunity. Accompanying the increasing economic visibility of carbon are reports of frauds and scams – the ‘gaming of carbon markets’(Chan 2010). As Lohmann (2010: 21) points out, ‘what are conventionally classed as scams or frauds are an inevitable feature of carbon offset markets, not something that could be eliminated by regulation targeting the specific businesses or state agencies involved’. This paper critiques the disparate discourses of fraud risk in carbon markets and examines cases of fraud within emerging landscapes of green criminology.

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