Understanding property rights in carbon: A methodological inquiry

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Conference Proceeding
COBRA 2010 - Construction, Building and Real Estate Research Conference of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, 2010
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Climate change threatens to have wide-ranging impacts on the sustainability of ecosystems and presents enormous challenges for conventional modes of socioeconomic governance. Against this backdrop, there have been a range of responses to put a price on carbon such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and New Zealand ETS, and the unsuccessful Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 in Australia. These ETS models do not clearly articulate the underlying asset, the carbon property right, upon which the price of commoditised carbon is secured. As a result of such initiatives, a clear understanding of what comprised a property right in carbon is emerging as a foundation component in the arsenal of mechanisms that are being brought together to mitigate and adapt to climate change at the international level. Drawing on the work of various researchers this paper develops a framework for understanding disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the context of carbon property rights. In developing this framework, the paper engages with the inevitable task of exploring the diverse approaches that have been applied to analyse real property rights. We outline how recent research on emergent property rights in natural resources, such as water and carbon, have challenged the way in which related rights, obligations and restrictions have been conceived. In undertaking this exploration, we take a step back from the immediacy of the issues of carbon property rights to explore the way they are framed through institutions and disciplines. We present the findings from this exploration in two parts. The first explores the state of research and practice into carbon property rights from within disciplines, between disciplines and across disciplines. The second part extends this discussion by exploring some of the challenges that face such research. The paper is intentionally broad in scope, although our research focuses attention on the challenges facing research within, between and across the 'normative' disciplines such as law, economics, planning, and politics.
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