Carbon trading is a program to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This can be accomplished by either reducing or preventing emissions, or by removing excessive quantities from the air. Carbon trading programs provide financial incentives for businesses and individuals to reduce their emissions. The goal of these programs is to control climate change by limiting global warming to sustainable levels.
Carbon trading has been used as an approach for creating market-based incentives that encourage both public and private organizations (such as power plants) to invest in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, biofuels and hydropower rather than fossil fuels like coal and oil which emit high levels of CO2 into the atmosphere when burned. These programs also encourage participants to increase their energy efficiency. Carbon trading is a tool that can be used as part of an overall strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the challenge of climate change.
What does the Kyoto Protocol have to do with carbon markets?
The Kyoto Protocol commits industrialized countries to reduce their carbon emissions levels to below 1990 levels, whereas developing countries are not committed to any reduction targets. The protocols goal is that by 2050, the atmosphere should contain no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases. This will prevent “dangerous climate change” which refers to dangerous changes in global weather patterns, sea level rise and the potential for mass extinction of species. Countries, which have met their emission targets, can sell their spare credits to countries that have not.
There are six greenhouse gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons and nitrogen trifluoride). Since then there are also carbon credits generated from reforestation and other sustainable land-use projects as well as the early offset protocols of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
Which is the largest carbon trading market?
Carbon trading exists today in various forms. One way carbon trading occurs is with regard to the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The EU ETS is the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world. It is a major pillar of EU climate policy and was approved by the European Parliament in December 2003.
The program aims to reduce emissions of all participating European Union (EU) countries by allowing them to trade carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances among themselves. However, the EU ETS isn’t a pure cap-and-trade system because it includes several key differences which are outlined in Table 1. For example, some countries are given free allowances to produce CO2 while others must pay for their emissions. Some allowances are also distributed based on historic emissions while others are distributed based on the amount of energy consumed.
Furthermore, the types of industry that are covered by the EU ETS vary from country to country. For example, some countries include their transportation sector while others do not. While some members have made considerable efforts to include additional sectors and improve their emission targets since the program was first adopted in 2005, these variations can make it difficult to compare the performance of different countries. Despite these challenges, the EU ETS has been deemed a success by many because it has reduced emissions by 19% since 2005 while helping participating countries to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments.
What are some carbon exchanges?
Carbon trading also occurs on smaller scales at the local or individual level through programs that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Community-based carbon reduction programs like the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) allow individuals or organizations to offset their CO2 emissions by investing in emission reduction projects. These projects include energy efficiency projects which increase the energy efficiency of homes and businesses. For example, an investment in a wind farm or solar panel project might be made through one of these exchanges.
Other countries with strong carbon markets include: Australia, the United States, South Korea and Japan.
What is the history of the carbon market?
The idea of carbon trading has been around since the 1980s. However, it was not taken seriously by corporations or policy makers until after the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 which mandated that all parties meet their greenhouse gas emission targets through international cooperation. As a result, many international institutions have begun to implement new guidelines for climate change mitigation through the use of carbon trading.
Example, in 2012, a report from the Heartland Institute argued that a cap-and-trade program would cause energy prices to rise and reduce employment opportunities for low-income workers. However, a number of studies have shown that implementing a national or international cap-and-trade system could actually reduce costs and create new employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector, such as solar energy. In fact, a study commissioned by the British Department of Energy and Climate Change concluded that a carbon price floor would result in the creation of over 300,000 jobs across manufacturing, construction and other industries that produce goods or provide services related to low-carbon technologies.
What are the three basic types of carbon trading?
There are three main methods that can be used to reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions. These include the use of energy efficient technologies, clean development mechanism projects and government policies which provide tax incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy sources.
Carbon Credits & Carbon Markets
Carbon credits are units which represent the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or the mass equivalent of some other greenhouse gas. The United Nations Framework on Climate Change established the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which defines a ton of emissions as being equal to 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. This is also known as a tCO2e. In the carbon market, a credit is also known as a permit, allowance or a certified emission reduction (CER) – each term is used to describe one tCO2e.
Carbon credits can be created in two ways; by reducing emissions through an approved clean development mechanism project or by buying the right to emit one ton of CO2 through an approved voluntary offset project.
What are the two types of emissions?
There are two main types of emissions; direct and indirect. Direct emissions arise from processes that take place on the premises of a company while indirect emissions come from business activities outside of its facilities, such as employees commuting to work or suppliers shipping goods to the company’s stores. In order to fully account for its carbon footprint, a corporation must first calculate both direct and indirect emissions.
The two main types of emission reduction projects currently being used include the clean development mechanism (CDM) and the Joint Implementation (JI). Some examples of CDM projects include wind farms, solar power plants and other sustainable transportation initiatives. JI projects tend to focus on more traditional projects, such as energy-efficient equipment upgrades.
What is the Clean Development Mechanism?
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is an international policy mechanism created under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It enables countries with industrialized economies – referred to as Annex 1 countries – to invest in emission reduction projects in developing countries. The CDM was designed so that industrialized countries could meet their emission reduction targets by funding emission reduction projects in developing countries.
What is Joint Implementation?
Joint Implementation (JI) is an international carbon offsetting mechanism created under the Kyoto Protocol of the UNFCCC. It enables industrialized countries to invest in emission-reduction projects anywhere in the world, with the aim of achieving economies of scale and ensuring that best practices are shared across national borders.
What is a carbon offset?
Carbon offsets represent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which are made elsewhere, either through actions that would not have happened without the investment or through the buying of credits from projects that would have gone ahead even without the investment. The buyer is, in effect, paying a premium to compensate for their own emissions as well as supporting projects which might not otherwise see the light of day.
What is a carbon tax?
A carbon tax can be described as a fee imposed by a government on the burning of carbon-based fuels such as coal and petroleum. The tax is levied according to the quantity of greenhouse gases produced through the process. The proceeds from this tax are used to fund programs which aim to reduce emissions or help communities adapt to climate change.
What is a cap and trade system?
A cap and trade system is a market-based approach to controlling emissions. Under such a system, the government sets an overall limit or cap on the amount of carbon that can be emitted and issues permits for companies to burn a certain amount of carbon (the number of credits they receive depends on past performance). Firms that cut their emissions faster than required can sell their surplus credits to other companies that have not reduced their carbon footprint enough. The cap and trade system thus encourages companies to pollute less.
What are the benefits of carbon trading?
While carbon trading is still a work in progress, overall the benefits of carbon trading are compelling. It has been cited as a method for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting economic growth and even increasing conservation. According to the World Bank’s Carbon Finance Unit , “Carbon markets offer concrete opportunities for environmental benefit while also creating new business opportunities in an emerging market.” Here are some specific benefits of carbon trading:
1. Mitigates emissions to address climate change
Carbon trading is one part of a multi-pronged approach for combatting the effects of climate change. The market-based system incentivizes businesses and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving them a financial benefit: money from an emission allowance auction or sale. Trading also provides an incentive for businesses to reduce their emissions beyond what is required by a regulation or law.
2. Reduces costs of international compliance
Because carbon trading allows companies and individuals to comply with regulation in the cheapest way possible, it reduces overall compliance costs for individual countries as well as the international community as a whole. This allows governments around the world to save money and allocate those funds elsewhere.
3. Increases investment in sustainable activities
Trading allows businesses that reduce their emissions below mandated levels to sell or trade excess allowances to other companies that cannot meet mandated levels without financial assistance. This creates a market for carbon, where businesses can invest in “clean” technologies and offset the cost of compliance by selling allowances they don’t need. Carbon trading also enables businesses to invest in technologies or activities with the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, like solar and wind power, even if they are not currently cost-effective without the incentive of carbon credits.
4. Harnesses market forces to drive change
The idea behind cap and trade is that it harnesses natural market forces to drive emitters to reduce emissions. By putting a price on carbon, companies are motivated to take advantage of cost-effective opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas pollution while also increasing profits by selling allowances that they don’t need.
5. Creates “Carbon Asset” that can be traded or monetized
One of the most compelling benefits of carbon trading is that it can create a carbon asset, or “carbon credit,” from emission reductions.
What are some of the challenges of the markets?
And while the benefits of carbon trading are compelling, there are also some challenges to consider:
1. Market volatility and fluctuating prices
The market for carbon credits is volatile, with supply and demand for allowances driving the price of a ton of carbon. Prices for carbon credits can fluctuate based on a number of factors, including the underlying economic activity driving demand for allowances, its associated costs and inflationary pressures. In addition to this market volatility, prices paid under a cap and trade system are not always transparent or uniform across all trading partners.
2. Costs passed from businesses to consumers
The rising cost of carbon allowances could be passed from businesses to consumers, and may even result in increased energy costs.
3. Potential for fraud and other types of abuse
A carbon trading system also has the potential for fraud and other types of abuse, such as double counting or multi-counting emissions reductions across national borders. These issues can result in less total emissions reductions than intended and can lead to increased costs for implementing such a system.
4. Possible increase in GHG emissions if cheap offsets are used
The use of cheap offset credits, or credits that represent emission reductions that would have happened anyway, without the added incentives provided by carbon trading, could also result in an overall increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Risk of carbon leakage
Carbon leakage occurs when businesses transfer their operations to other countries with weaker greenhouse gas reduction policies, in order to avoid compliance with a carbon market program. Such leakage is harmful to carbon markets because it reduces total emissions reductions and undermines the purpose of implementing such systems in the first place. It is also wasteful, as the same emission reductions could have occurred in another country where they are needed.
6. Difficulties measuring and predicting GHG emissions
Measuring and predicting greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, which can make it difficult to establish baselines against which future emission levels can be measured. This uncertainty about future emission levels makes cost-effectiveness analysis of emission reduction projects difficult and can hamper the development and implementation of carbon markets.
What does a carbon emissions trader do?
A carbon trader’s job is to sell and buy carbon credits/reduction on the international market. Businesses and governments around the world are under pressure to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. The primary tool used to encourage these reductions is a system for putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, through either emissions taxes or emissions trading schemes.
What is difference between carbon trading and emission trading?
Carbon trading and emission trading are similar terms that describe a system for reducing pollution where the total amount of greenhouse gasses is capped and organizations or corporations work to reduce their share of emissions.
In carbon trading, each participating organization is assigned an allowance at the beginning of the period by a governing body called a regulator . Organizations that reduce their emissions below the limit may trade their surplus allowance to another organization that has a deficit, allowing them to exceed their limits.
In emission trading , each participating organization is assigned a limit at the beginning of the period by a governing body called a regulator . Organizations that emit less than their individual limits can sell or trade excess allowances to other organizations that have a higher emissions level.
In both schemes, the main limiting factor is economics: there is no point in continuing to invest in technologies and equipment that do not cut greenhouse gasses enough to be profitable. The success of carbon trading has been varied because there are some economic factors that can influence it.
In conclusion carbon dioxide emissions & greenhouse gas emissions
Carbon trading is a method used by regulators to encourage emission reductions of greenhouse gasses that may be harmful to the environment. Offsets, the tradeable units in these systems, are generated by either carbon sinks or emissions reduction projects. Carbon trading has been found to be an effective tool of reducing greenhouse gas emissions because it creates a price on emissions of these harmful gasses. However, there are some factors that can hinder the effectiveness of carbon trading programs including difficulties measuring and predicting future levels of greenhouse gasses, economic factors, and the innate difficulties of predicting future environmental consequences. These factors can limit how effective programs are at reducing greenhouse gas emissions which must be taken into account when designing these programs. Although it is not a perfect process, carbon trading is one step in the international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and must be continued.