Carbon offsetting: Sustaining consumption?

Heather Lovell, Harriet Bulkeley, Diana Liverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


In this paper we examine how theories of sustainable and ethical consumption help us to understand a new, rapidly expanding type of consumer product designed to mitigate climate change: carbon offsets. The voluntary carbon offset market grew by 200% between 2005 and 2006, and there are now over 150 retailers of voluntary carbon offsets worldwide. Our analysis concentrates on the production and consumption of carbon offsets, drawing on ideas from governmentality and political ecology about how narratives and technologies are used to create particular types of consumer subjectivities and shape consumer choice. We critically examine three narratives that offset producers are using to position carbon offsets and examine how these narratives are shaping circuits of carbon offset production and consumption. We assess the implications for the future governance of voluntary carbon offset markets and for the study of alternative consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2357-2379
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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