An Emerging Geography of Intangible Assets: Financialization in Carbon Emissions Credit and Intellectual Property Markets
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In this article we investigate how two cases of ‘intangible assets,’ carbon emissions credits and intellectual property, shift the balance of economic activity between and across regions. Carbon emissions credits and intellectual property portfolios require predictable and enforceable property rights regimes to gain and retain value. Hence these assets and the intermediaries that trade them generally operate within advanced economies. Our analysis highlights several findings. First, large, integrated TNCs play a key role in the emerging markets for these intangible assets by driving investment, directing acquisitions, and influencing the structure and character of the assets themselves through the regulatory regimes that define them. Second, the public policy interests in innovation and sustainability shaping the governance structures that assign these assets with property rights do not alter their fundamental operation as financial instruments. Thus these intangible assets are more than efforts to codify and fix a market price to the externalities of the production processes of carbon emissions and research. They also create geographic sites of alternative, competitive investment. We suggest that these assets produce a geography that both siphons off capital from production sites and isolates assets in privileged financial and investment capitals.