Linking low-carbon cities to carbon markets: metropolitan solutions for socially inclusive low-carbon development in (Southeast) Asia?

Cities play an increasingly important role in socio-technical transitions (Dhakal, 2008; Hodson & Marvin, 2010) and especially so in mitigating climate change (Bulkeley, Broto, Hodson, & Marvin, 2011). Not only do they generate an increasing share of greenhouse gas emissions, they are also key sites of mitigating climate change by experimenting with new policies and innovations.

Carbon markets[1] are seen as important instruments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable energy use (European Commission, 2013; Grubb, Laing, Counsell, & Willan, 2011). Recently, a large number of ‘experiments’ (Callon, 2009) with carbon markets are emerging at various scales throughout the world (Meckling & Hepburn, 2013; Newell, Pizer, & Raimi, 2013), including in Southeast Asia.  

Climate change mitigation at city level is one of the newest types of mitigation experiment. These so called ‘low-carbon cities’ (LCC) often involve a combination of various policies and instruments – for example focussed on energy efficiency of buildings and reduction of landfill gas – that contribute to lowering the urban greenhouse gas emissions. Some LCCs have linked to domestic carbon markets, and in the future might link to international markets (Rayner, 2010). To date, however, there is very little research on this linkage. Moreover, there is limited experience from project-based mechanisms at the urban level in general (Clapp et al., 2010).

This research project focuses on crediting emissions in Southeast Asian cities and whether and how this can be reconciled with domestic or international carbon markets. This (actual and potential) linking of low-carbon cities to national and international climate mitigation policies raises various multi-disciplinary questions:

1.       What is the nature of the ongoing experiments with low-carbon cities in Southeast Asia? How are they linked to carbon markets or domestic climate change targets? What can be learnt from these experiments? (and how can learning across cities be facilitated?)

2.       Under what conditions are low-carbon cities able to facilitate socially inclusive low-carbon development? Which stakeholders are engaged in the development of low-carbon cities in Southeast Asia? Which ones are excluded?

3.       What are the specific technical challenges related to measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) of developing and linking low-carbon cities? What are the other technical and accounting challenges related to linking low-carbon cities?


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[1] Carbon markets is used as shorthand for carbon markets and carbon trading mechanisms, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the Clean Development Mechanism.