The challenges of making things the same: Standardisation and building markets for biodiversity offsets
Carlos Ferreira (Coventry University)
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Paper long abstract:
This paper analyses the challenges involved in the creation of a socio-technical infrastructure in markets for biodiversity offsets. While the emergence of these markets can be traced to the principle of performativity of economics - the application of principles of neoclassical economics to the problem of governing the environment (Callon, 1998b, 2007; Garcia-Perpet, 2007; MacKenzie, Muniesa, & Siu, 2007) - their expansion is beset by obstacles brought about by the commodity exchanged therein. Like other natural resources before, biodiversity is proving to be an uncooperative commodity (Bakker, 2003; Robertson, 2004, 2007), limiting the capacity of commodifying technologies (Kopytoff, 1986) to make things the same (MacKenzie, 2009) and establish equivalence between biodiversity lost in one geographical location and biodiversity gained elsewhere. Based on published reports and interviews with agents involved in markets for biodiversity offsets in the United States, Germany and England, this article analyses how attempts at making things the same through the creation of standards are impaired by the differing objectives and preferences of different groups of agents. Even as a "best-practice" standard for biodiversity offsetting has been published (BBOP, 2012), which serves as a normative device for agents involved, the development of the respective market agencements (Muniesa, Millo, & Callon, 2007) remains a hot topic (Callon, 1998a, 2009). The result is continued tension, both between geographically-specific markets for biodiversity offsets, and within said markets. This impairs standardisation, and compromises the potential for future market expansion.
Solidarities and asymmetries in spaces of standardisation