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Abstract: This article argues that the analysis of the commodities exchanged on global carbon markets can help us grasp the current relationship between economic categories and environmental issues. In the article, global carbon markets are historically contextualized, analytically described and politically articulated against the background of two hypotheses: (1) that the process of progressive marketization of climate change occurs in connection with the emergence of a new modality of value production (which can be generically defined as ‘cognitive capitalism’); and (2) that the governance of contemporary circuits of valorization tends to be located within the financial sphere and poses a constitutive and ongoing uncertainty/instability as a necessary condition for their reproduction. Subsequently, these hypotheses are tested with specific reference to the ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ as established by the Kyoto Protocol. In particular, the analysis will focus on the carbon commodities known as ‘Certified Emission Reductions’, which reveal an unprecedented relationship between use-value and exchange-value. I contend that the use-value of carbon commodities is not defined by an intrinsic ecological dimension; rather, it is produced under the exclusive condition of accepting the redeeming character of the market as fundamentally shaped by the formal principle of economic competition. The paper aims to demonstrate how the value produced in global carbon markets rests exclusively on the social actors’ arbitrary acceptance of the ‘carbon trading dogma’, namely an extremely entrenched – albeit empirically unprovable – political belief that climate change, although a market failure, can be viably solved only by further marketization.

ephemara, volume 17(1): 61-87