Justice and Boundary Setting in Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade Policy: A Case Study of the Western Climate Initiative

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    Cap and trade systems have been pursued as a primary strategy for addressing climate change but have received surprisingly little analysis from a justice perspective. Using a multivalent justice framework that includes the dimensions of distribution, recognition, and representation, this article examines the development of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the largest multijurisdictional North American attempt to create a greenhouse gas (GHG) cap and trade system. Decisions involving five components of creating the system are interrogated: participation metrics, stakeholder consultations, methods of policy analysis, market boundaries, and policy guidelines. This analysis yields two sets of observations. First, the article documents how market-oriented regulation contracted understandings of climate change policy. Decisions taken to facilitate the commodification and marketization of GHGs narrowed the understanding of justice with the WCI to the concept of “fair play” among market participants. Second, the article argues that using a multivalent approach to justice facilitates the observation of how a relatively shallow understanding of justice was shaped in this particular context. It also concludes, however, by considering the limitations of this approach to justice, in particular the dimension of representation, when faced with multiscalar and ambiguous policy contexts such as those inherent to climate policy.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)105-122
    Number of pages18
    JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2 2015


    • cap and trade
    • climate change policy
    • commodification
    • justice
    • neoliberal governance

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Earth-Surface Processes


    Dive into the research topics of 'Justice and Boundary Setting in Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade Policy: A Case Study of the Western Climate Initiative'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this