Regulation Lite: The Rise of Emissions Trading

33 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2008

See all articles by Robert Baldwin

Robert Baldwin

London School of Economics - Law Department

Date Written: February 2008


Emissions trading is the governmentally - promoted hope for a sustainable world. In different contexts, trading regimes display varying potential - both in absolute terms and in comparison with other regulatory instruments. Emissions trading, however, is a device that raises urgent issues regarding its objectives, cost-effectiveness, fairness, transparency, and legitimacy. Its use places emphasis on its 'acceptability' and the virtues of regulation that is 'lite' because it is non-threatening to the most powerful interests. Emissions trading is resonant with assumptions that are highly contentious - notably that it is acceptable because it involves no losers, or because, in desperate global circumstances, we have no choice but to use it. There is a need to confront the difficult issues presented by emissions trading; to face the challenges of combining 'market' and 'democratic' systems of legitimation; and to avoid taking refuge in all too comfortable beliefs in cumulative checks and balances.

Suggested Citation

Baldwin, Robert, Regulation Lite: The Rise of Emissions Trading (February 2008). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 3/2008, Available at SSRN: or

Robert Baldwin (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

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