Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Submitted Version.

McNicholas, P., & Windsor, C. (2011). Can the financialised atmosphere be effectively regulated and accounted for? Special Issue: Climate change and greenhouse gases. Accounting, auditing & accountability journal, 24(8), 1071-1096.

Access the publisher's website.

2011 HERDC submission. FoR code: 150106

© Copyright Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2011




Purpose – This paper aims to carry out a critical analysis of the proposed Australian emissions trading scheme (ETS) as a complex market solution to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Specifically it seeks to examine the financial regulatory infrastructure that will more than likely oversee the Australian ETS, the same regulatory infrastructure which failed to prevent the global financial crisis.

Design/methodology/approach – A critical examination of the financialisation of the atmosphere that follows the growth of the financialisation of capitalism when economic activity shifted from production and service sectors to finance. Financialisation of capitalism is supported by capitalist regulation influenced by neo-liberal doctrines of free markets and small government.

Findings – Trillions of dollars of taxpayer funds bailed out large financial institutions that nearly collapsed after unregulated trading in complex financial products that were supposed to hedge future risk. Corporate emissions trading will involve similar financial products. The measurement and reporting of actual emissions to support the Australian ETS also creates challenges for the accountancy profession to provide a workable conceptual framework.

Practical implications – If the currently flawed financial infrastructure required for the GHG emissions trading scheme, no amount of taxpayer funded bailouts will reverse the extreme climate change associated with an environmental catastrophe.

Originality/value – The application of financialisation of monopoly capitalism and capitalist regulation theories to the critical analysis of commoditised GHGs traded as financial products in the proposed Australian ETS.



This document has been peer reviewed.


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