110: Carbon markets with Danny Cullenward

In this episode, Michael speaks with Danny Cullenward. Danny is a lawyer and climate economist working on the design and implementation of scientifically grounded climate policy. He is the Policy Director at CarbonPlan and a Research Fellow at American University’s Institute for Carbon Removal Law & Policy. He holds a PhD and a JD from Stanford University.

Danny talks with Michael about his book, Making Climate Policy Work , which he co-authored with David Victor. In this book, Danny and David critique the dominance of carbon markets in the climate change policy space. They argue that such markets are layered onto existing regulations that are doing most of the work to mitigate carbon emissions. A central challenge that markets face is that their implementation is highly political and often coopted by those who are regulated.

Danny and David also discuss carbon offset policies, which is essentially a payment for ecosystem services scheme that is often added to carbon market policies to provide regulated actors with an option to pay for carbon sequestration elsewhere to enable them to keep polluting where they are, with the presumption that the carbon budget can balance out. Danny and David are also critical of these, in particular due to their lack of additionality, or the lack of credible proof that the carbon sequestration being paid for is occurring because of the offset program and wouldn’t have happened without it. Danny and Michael conclude the conversation by talking about the future of voluntary carbon markets and the promise of carbon removal technologies.

Carbon Plan website: https://carbonplan.org/

Cullenward, Danny, and David G. Victor. 2020. Making Climate Policy Work. Polity Press.

Badgley, Grayson, Jeremy Freeman, Joseph J. Hamman, Barbara Haya, Anna T. Trugman, William R. L. Anderegg, and Danny Cullenward. 2022. “Systematic over-Crediting in California’s Forest Carbon Offsets Program.” Global Change Biology 28 (4): 1433–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15943 (open access)

Propublica reporting on Badgley et al. (2022) article: