Toward a Different Debate in Environmental Accounting
The Cases of Carbon and Cost-Benefit

by Larry Lohmann

first published 1 April 2008

Many champions of environmental accounting suggest that calculating and internalizing 'externalities' is the solution to environmental problems. Many critics of neoliberalism counter that the spread of market-like calculations into 'nonmarket' spheres, is, on the contrary, itself at the root of such problems.

This article in the journal Accounting, Organizations and Society (Volume 34, Issues 3-4, April-May 2009, pages 499-534) proposes setting aside this debate and instead closely examining the concrete conflicts, contradictions and resistances engendered by environmental accounting techniques and the perpetually incomplete efforts of accountants and their allies to overcome them. In particular, it explores how cost-benefit analysis and the carbon accounting techniques required by the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme and other carbon trading mechanisms 'frame' new agents, spaces, relations and objects, and what the consequences have been and are likely to be.