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Delivering Adaptation Finance Through the Market? The Trouble with Using Carbon Offsets to Finance Climate Adaptation in the Global South


Year published: 2022
Categories: Book Chapter
URL Link: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-12619-2_7

Author / Authors:

  • Kate Ervine


Part of book
The Political Economy of Climate Finance: Lessons from International Development


Estimates reveal a consistent failure to fulfill climate finance targets, with adaptation finance receiving proportionately less than finance directed to mitigating climate breakdown. Financing for loss and damage is even more critically inadequate. Though likely an underestimate, official figures peg adaptation costs at approximately $70 billion per year presently, growing to an estimated $140–300 billion by 2030 and $280–500 billion by 2050. Much of the scholarly literature and policy work is thus focused on determining how sufficient funds to finance adaptation will be raised and from where they will come. This challenge is perceived as especially acute given the absence of incentives for private sector investment in adaptation projects. The purpose of this chapter is to offer a critical intervention into discussions and debates on the related themes of adaptation finance and adaptation to climate breakdown with a particular focus on carbon markets. Abundant and well-documented evidence shows that carbon offsetting under the Kyoto Protocol allowed polluters in the Global North to avoid taking action, shifting the burden of responsibility for lowering emissions to distant nations and communities; that an overwhelming share of offset projects failed to fulfill their emission reduction commitments resulting in an overall increase in global emissions and that carbon offsetting today represents a dangerous obstacle to achieving real and lasting emission reductions consistent with limiting heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This chapter offers an intervention into critically oriented research on adaptation to climate breakdown in the Global South. Much of this literature has documented the problems with adaptation interventions—that they fail to problematize how pre-existing inequalities at the community level shape outcomes and heighten marginalization; that they fail to interrogate multi-scalar sources and structures of vulnerability and oppression, including relations of production and social reproduction, class, gender, race, and more, thereby threatening to reproduce them; that they fail to offer spaces for democratic dialogue, mutual learning and participatory practice in adaptation projects and that they conceptualize adaptation as a technical fix in response to external climate threats, thereby mystifying the imperative to understand climate breakdown and the need for adaptation as deeply enmeshed in, and constituted through, globalized socio-economic and political structures to which we must respond as part of adaptation interventions.


  • Book Chapter