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Accepted Paper:

Enabling net-zero futures: The afterlife of knowledge infrastructures in post-Paris offsetting  
Kamilla Karhunmaa (University of Helsinki) Mira Käkönen (Tampere University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the paucities and continuities in the knowledge infrastructure that enables carbon offsetting after the Paris climate agreement. We show how the knowledge infrastructure of offsetting has an afterlife that perpetuates problematic commensurabilities, (in)visibilities and harms.

Paper long abstract:

Knowledge infrastructures are key in the making and maintenance of contemporary environmental relations, yet they are often also opaque, technical, and expert-led, thus leaving little room for critical interventions. In this paper, we focus on carbon offsetting as an example of a knowledge infrastructure that both requires and generates an elaborate assemblage of carbon accounting metrics, methodologies and expert networks. While increasing attention has been paid on the 'lively' remnants of built structures, the afterlives of knowledge infrastructures have received less attention. Possibilities for intervening in such knowledge infrastructures emerge at temporal disjunctions - or when the continuity of such infrastructures is under negotiation. We argue that such a moment of disjunction opened following the negotiation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

In the paper, we focus on the making of Article 6 market mechanisms and analyse the debates that have shaped them prior to, during and after the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow. We also compare the emergent mechanisms and methodologies with those of the Kyoto-era. We show how the knowledge infrastructure of offsetting has been both questioned and reasserted, and demonstrate the persistence of offsetting infrastructures through the carryover of previous 'zombie' carbon credits and methodologies. We argue that making climate ambitions 'easy' and business-friendly through sustaining carbon offsetting is in effect coupled with the lingering power effects of 'zombie infrastructures'. We also highlight the problematic commensurabilities, (in)visibilities and harms this infrastructural afterlife potentially perpetuates.

Panel P48b
Informated Environments
  Session 1 Wednesday 8 June, 2022, -