Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET)
CET Virtual Lunch Seminar

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc? Rethinking temporality, attribution, and additionality in landscape-scale carbon finance

CET is excited to announce this CET Virtual Lunch Seminar with Connor Cavanagh, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Bergen.

Agri-forest landscapes in Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya
Agri-forest landscapes in Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya
Connor Joseph Cavanagh

Main content

The Latin phrase post hoc, ergo propter hoc is usually translated into English as ‘after this, therefore because of this’. The phrase is typically invoked as shorthand for a commonplace type of logical fallacy: one which conflates temporal succession with causation. Engaging the two themes of temporality and attribution within literatures on climate change mitigation schemes in the agriculture, forestry, and land use (AFOLU) sector, this paper offers a critical analysis of conventional methodologies for verifying the additionality of emissions reductions derived from several emergent project designs for agricultural or landscape-scale carbon finance schemes. A careful analysis of relevant methodologies, consultancy records, and empirical data obtained within associated project areas in East Africa raises several concerns regarding the validity, additionality, and legitimacy of property rights for certified emissions reductions issued from these initiatives. In discussing related findings, I suggest that current practices for both establishing baseline scenarios and justifying the additionality of subsequent mitigation interventions risk committing a lamentably straightforward type of post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. This is especially so if project designs do not adequately account for the endogenous agency and diverse motivations of rural land users, as well as the wide prevalence of spurious third-party initiatives currently fueling dynamic forms of agrarian change in East Africa and elsewhere. 

About the speaker:

Connor Joseph Cavanagh is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Bergen. His research interests lie at the interface of agri-environmental governance, political ecology, and critical human geography. Connor is a co-founder and Advisory Collective member of the international Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) and is passionate about ongoing collaborations to expand the network, which has grown rapidly from just 8 member 'nodes' or institutional clusters in 2014 to more than 240 nodes across six continents today.

As always, the CET Lunch Seminars are open for anyone interested so please feel free to share within your networks and on social media.