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Conferences & lectures

Emissions targets and a challenge to capitalism?

Date & time
Monday, March 15, 2021
4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Anders Bjorn and Daniel Horen Greenford


This event is free and open to the public.


4th Space



Emissions targets and a challenge to capitalism

This panel will feature two Concordia researchers discussing issues concerning the transitions necessary to meet climate targets. Ander Bjorn will begin by discussion science-based emissions targets, and Daniel Horen Greenford will end with a discussion of the challenges of and potential alternatives to the current capitalist system.


Anders Bjørn, Shannon Lloyd, and Damon Matthews: From the Paris Agreement to corporate climate commitments: Evaluation of seven methods for setting “science-based” emission targets

While large companies routinely announce greenhouse gas emissions targets, few have derived targets based on global climate stabilization goals. This changed in 2015 with the creation of the Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative, which provides guidelines for setting emission targets in line with the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. To date, SBTs have been set by more than 500 companies accounting for around 2% of global emissions. Methods for setting such targets are not presented in a comparable way in target-setting guidelines and concerns that certain methods may lead to overshoot of the temperature goal have not been investigated. Here, we systematically characterize and compare all seven broadly applicable target-setting methods and quantify the balance between collective corporate SBTs and global allowable emissions for individual methods and different method mixes. We use a simplified global production scenario composed of eight archetypical companies to evaluate target-setting methods across a range of company characteristics and global emission scenarios. The methods vary greatly with respect to emission allocation principles, required company variables and global scenarios related to future allowable emissions and gross domestic product. Some methods treat companies largely the same, while others differentiate between company types based on geography, economic sector, projected growth rate or baseline emission intensity. The application of individual target-setting methods as well as different mixes of methods tend to result in an imbalance between time-integrated aggregated SBTs and global allowable emissions. The sign and size of this imbalance is in many cases sensitive to the shape of the global emission pathway and the distribution of variables between the company archetypes. We recommend 1) transparency from method developers about allocation principles involved, 2) disclosure from companies about methods used to derive SBTs and 3) consideration of emission imbalance by the SBT initiative to improve its method recommendations.   

Daniel Horen Greenford: From cynical pessimism to constructive creativity: How to overcome capitalist realism and save the climate

It's easier to imagine the end of the world — or in the case of climate-economy modellers, unproven negative emissions technologies spanning a landmass the size of India — than it is to imagine an alternative to capitalism. In Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, Mark Fisher described the disappearance of original and creative thought that now epitomizes dominant culture. To Fisher, the public mind has become a salted, barren earth; devoid of the creative potential to reinvent itself. The totality of neoliberal thinking has rendered down social and ecological values to exchange value. In place of our multitude ways of relating to each other and making decisions, business ontology is now standard in public policy, and has even corroded much of private life. Fisher's diagnosis is bleak, but not terminal. Given recent developments in the climate movement, and the general portrayal of the climate crisis in wider discourse, we may be seeing the cracks in this realism widening. As Fisher observed over a decade ago, the real world (Lacan's 'Real') exposes capitalist realism’s tautological assertion. But how stable (or fragile) is this 'reality'? Are we ready to eschew it for something else, perhaps for a way of life and organization we never have tried before? In this brief discussion, I will review and build off of Fisher's thinking, attempting to revise his analysis to account for changes since his work's publication, to reassess this existential question. In the ensuing discussion — armed with the conceptual tools of Fisher and his predecessors, and any helpful insights brought from other fields — I invite you to join me in answering it. Is there no alternative? Or is a better world possible?

This event is part of:

Sustainability and the Climate Crisis: A week of discussion

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