Information Disclosure and Climate: The Thinking Behind CARMA - Working Paper 132

November 12, 2007

Among climate scientists, there is no longer any serious debate about whether greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are altering the Earth's climate. There is also a broad consensus that controlling emissions will require carbon pricing via market-based instruments (charges or cap-and-trade). In this new working paper CGD senior fellow David Wheeler urges the international community to establish an institution mandated to collect, verify and publicly disclose information about emissions from all significant global carbon sources. This institution would:

  • Lay the foundation for implementing any market-based system of emissions source regulation
  • Provide a credibility test, since a country's acceptance of full disclosure will signal its true willingness to participate in globally-efficient emissions reduction
  • Reduce carbon emissions by focusing stakeholder pressure on major emitters and provide reputational rewards for clean producers
  • Discourage cheating once market-based instruments are implemented, which is essential for preserving the credibility of an international agreement to reduce emissions.

In describing the role of public information disclosure in helping to address the challenge of climate change, the paper also sets for the underlying rationale for CGD's new Web site, Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA), a global database of with the estimated CO2 emissions of some 50,000 power plants worldwide, and of the the 4,000 power companies that own them.

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