The Conditional Sink: Counterfactual Display in the Valuation of a Carbon Offsetting Reforestation Project
AbstractThis paper examines counterfactual display in the valuation of carbon offsetting projects. Considered a legitimate way to encourage climate change mitigation, such projects rely on the establishment of procedures for the prospective assessment of their capacity to become carbon sinks. This requires imagining possible worlds and assessing their plausibility. The world inhabited by the project is articulated through conditional formulation and subjected to what we call “counterfactual display”: the production and circulation of documents that demonstrate and con!gure the counterfactual valuation. We present a case study on one carbon offsetting reforestation project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We analyse the construction of the scene that allows the “What would have happened” question to make sense and become actionable. We highlight the operations of calculative framing that this requires, the reality constraints it relies upon, and the entrepreneurial conduct it stimulates.
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