In December 2019, the international community gathers for the 25th UN climate conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. Carbon markets, under negotiation in Madrid, threaten to lock us in to another decade of inaction, distraction, and corporate power-grabbing. 

Carbon markets have never, and will never, deliver on emissions reductions; instead, they enable ‘business-as-usual’, and are utterly ineffective in bringing down emissions. Furthermore, they pose a grave threat to indigenous peoples and frontline communities globally.  

In this briefing, we explain what carbon markets are, and the theory behind mechanisms like ‘cap and trade’ and ‘carbon offsetting’. We define the dangers of carbon markets: how they protect and enrich corporations and the global elite; how they are designed to hinder, rather than facilitate, equitable and urgent progress on climate; and how the real-life consequences of market mechanisms have impacted on some of the most vulnerable communities across the world. Finally, we outline what must be done to prevent a resolution on carbon markets at COP25.

Image credit: Francesca Gater, Friends of the Earth Europe.