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June 29, 2017

Contact: Tara Ritter,, 612-870-3424


IATP Report: States Urged to Lead on Climate Action and Avoid Carbon Markets

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - The Trump Administration’s undermining of national and international climate policy creates an opportunity for states to advance more equitable approaches to climate policy, highlights a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). The report finds that carbon markets have been an ineffective way to address climate change, and urges states to combine effective, predictable regulation with investment in climate friendly energy and infrastructure.

Don’t Believe the Carbon Market Hype: Why States Should Not Pursue Carbon Markets and What They Can Do Instead by IATP Senior Program Associate Tara Ritter, details the problems carbon markets have historically experienced, including failing to effectively lower greenhouse gas emissions, creating enormous environmental justice implications, and falling prey to fraud and market speculation. The report also outlines how states can design climate policies that are more equitable and effective.

The Trump administration’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement signals that the federal government will not act on climate change. President Trump’s proposed budget also cuts over 30 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, including eliminating the Office of Environmental Justice. In the absence of federal action on climate change, states should seize the opportunity to step up by creating climate policies of their own.

Some states have already begun announcing their own climate change strategies. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in May an initiative to curb the state’s methane emissions, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an Executive Order in the same month directing the state to begin creating a carbon market.

Carbon markets are often touted as a way to combat climate change, but in practice their record is ineffective. Existing U.S. carbon markets in California and in the northeastern states have not led to meaningful greenhouse gas reductions, and have disproportionately harmed rural communities, low-income communities, and communities of color.

“Past carbon markets have consistently failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the rate needed, and they often fail to spur the clean energy innovation needed to address climate change,” says Ritter. “There are better ways for states to move forward with much-needed, bottom-up climate action.”

The report recommends building blocks for a new system, including implementing and/or strengthening state Renewable Portfolio Standards and residential and commercial building energy codes, and including the social cost of carbon in environmental assessments. States must continue to lead the charge with localized policies that focus on equity and resilience. Such policies best arise from deep community engagement and inclusive processes that strive to address local concerns so that communities can remain resilient as they adapt to climate change.

The full report can be read here.


Based in Minneapolis with offices in Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Germany, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy connects the dots of global justice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

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