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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Changing business as usual in global climate and development action: Making space for social justice in carbon markets

Arora-Jonsson, Seema; Gurung, Jeannette


Carbon markets are being promoted both by business and governments as a predominant way to address climate change. Critical scholarship on climate change has brought attention to their disappointing climate performance, for the social and geopolitical inequalities they engender and for distracting from the imperative of changing current extractivist modes of capitalist production and consumption. Yet, given that private interests are considered central in climate action today and that carbon markets are dominant, we argue that it makes it important for us as practitioners and academics to engage with them, while maintaining our own critical posi-tion. The central aim in this article is to grapple with the human dimensions of global environmental governance, to explore practical ways in which we may go about ensuring justice and sustainability in everyday development and climate action, beyond theoretical denunciations of the system and structures in which we find ourselves. Drawing on scholarship that questions the hegemonic power of capitalism, we adopt a practical stance to reflect on how a gendered methodology, the W+ standard, modelled on methods used to measure carbon emissions reductions, may be used in development and in combination with carbon standards if needed, in a way that emissions-reducing projects also lead to gender and social justice. The W+ Standard is a methodology that en-sures that gendered inequalities, including women's often invisible care work, are accounted for, by quantifying and certifying benefits for women involved in community development and climate projects. Based on an activist academic and practitioner conversation, we explore if engaging in the politics of the present (in this case, with private interests and carbon markets) may make space for the political agency of women and men and diverse economic and social contexts in such projects and enable a shift in business in usual. We argue that there is a need to engage in new experimental economic relations in local contexts that may have the potential to change unequal development and environmental (climate) relationships, in encounters between global development and local lives.


Carbon markets; Practical pathways to social justice; Reproductive care; W + Standard; Climate change

Published in

World Development Perspectives
2023, Volume: 29, article number: 100474Publisher: Elsevier Ltd

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

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