Last Saturday, UN climate negotiators from 195 countries agreed on a historic climate change accord in Paris after two weeks of intense negotiations. While many of us were hoping for a hook that would support the use of markets, we were happily surprised to see the extent and detail on carbon markets that was ultimately included in the Paris Agreement.
China, the biggest source of CO2 emissions globally, accounts for more than 27 percent of the world's emissions. China is the first developing country to control CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Once a national carbon market is established, which could be as early as 2017, China will overtake the European Union (EU) to become the biggest carbon market in the world. The Chinese market will significantly alter the balance of power in global carbon markets in the mid-term. Significant challenges remain, and the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is helping China to overcome them with a project in Shenzhen that addresses key barriers to carbon trading.
Fundamentals of Emissions Markets
Once a liquid carbon market has been created, trading will mostly happen via forward and futures contracts. These instruments help companies to protect themselves against volatile prices and to hedge their carbon position. In the EU, exchange platforms emerged as one of the main mechanisms aimed at simplifying transactions, reducing risk and facilitating transparent pricing. As trading platforms, exchanges can facilitate price discovery and offer hedging products.
The financial sector and financial institutions (FI) play a fundamentally important role in an emissions trading system. It is to be expected that most companies in China will trade with the help of intermediaries; only large emitters will trade directly at an exchange. Thus, FIs will be in a position to offer trading-related services, as well as advisory products, to clients subject to mandatory CO2 regulation.
New carbon pricing systems are being developed in China, Chile and other countries to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage clean energy and sustainable development. This will mean new reporting requirements and regulations for an increasing number of national and multi-national companies.
To help corporate leaders prepare, we studied the experiences of three companies that are already operating within one or more carbon pricing systems and the steps they took to prepare for a world where greenhouse gas emissions have a price.
Our report released today by the Partnership for Market Readiness describes the impacts of a changing climate on business strategies, analyzes risks and opportunities as new climate policies are implemented, and distills lessons learned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Rio Tinto, and Royal Dutch Shell. The three companies represent a variety of energy-intense industries, including oil, gas, metals, mining and energy generation, transmission and distribution. Two operate in more than one jurisdiction with emissions trading.
Around the world, countries are developing ways to put a price on carbon to fight climate change. They are choosing different approaches depending on their national circumstances. China has pilot emissions trading systems (ETS) in seven provinces and cities and is planning a national ETS in 2016. Chile recently approved a carbon tax to start in 2018. Mexico and Colombia are implementing sector-wide crediting mechanisms that reward low emission programs with carbon credits, for example in the transport sector by substituting conventional vehicles with electric cars. Many countries have renewable energy portfolio standards and feed-in tariffs.
These domestic initiatives are crucial to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Each is being designed individually, though, creating a patchwork of regulations and missing the economy of scale that a connected system could bring.
The World Bank Group has been working on ways to network these initiatives and facilitate an integrated international carbon market.
By Nicolette Bartlett, Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and CISL
Developing effective carbon pricing mechanisms can and will play a key part in tackling climate change, facilitating the much needed investment cost-effectively and at scale. Specifically, “cap and trade” policies or emissions trading schemes (ETS) have been widely adopted in recent years because of their potential to foster greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Over the past few years, carbon pricing has risen on the corporate agenda – from the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group’s (CLG) Carbon Price Communiqué to the UN Climate Leadership Summit in September, where 73 countries and over 1,000 companies came together to publically lend their support for carbon pricing. Here at COP20 in Lima, many businesses and civil society organisations are asking what role carbon pricing will have in the Paris 2015 Climate Agreement.
One Brazilian business group that CLG has been partnering with is taking a novel approach. Empresas Pelo Clima (EPC) implemented an ETS Simulation using live corporate data to engage Brazilian companies in discussions around what a robust cap and trade market might entail and how it could be designed and implemented. The ETS Simulation is delivered in partnership between the Rio de Janeiro Green Stock Exchange (BVRio – Bolsa Verde do Rio de Janeiro) and EPC through the Center for Sustainability Studies of the Business Management School at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV-EASP).
Frank Pegan is the CEO of Catholic Super, an Australian superannuation fund currently managing AU$5.21 billion. He spoke ahead of the UN Climate Leadership Summit about the value of carbon pricing for investors.
Henri Proglio is the chairman and CEO of Électricité de France (EDF). He spoke ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Leadership Summit about the importance of carbon pricing for the electricity sector to move toward a low-carbon economy.
We’re about 16 months away from the 2015 UN climate meeting in Paris, intended to reach an ambitious global agreement on climate change. Now, more than ever, there is a need for innovation to scale up climate action.
The Bank’s Carbon Partnership Facility (CPF) is helping blaze that trail.
The role of the CPF is to innovate in scaling up carbon crediting programs that promote sustainable, low-carbon economic growth in developing countries. In its first set of programs, the CPF moved past the project-by-project approach to larger scale through the Clean Development Mechanism’s Programme of Activities, catalyzing investment in methane capture from landfills, small-scale renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
December 2009 does not seem so long ago. The UN climate conference in Copenhagen had just come to a disappointing end, and I headed home feeling depressed. I returned to China for holiday and was surprised to see the widespread awareness of climate change and the collective sense of urgency for action. The concept of "low carbon" was discussed in all major and local newspapers. To my amazement, I even found an advertisement for a "low carbon" wedding. I finished my holiday and went back to Washington with optimism and hope: Despite the failings of Copenhagen, China, the biggest emitter in the world and the largest developing country, was going through a real transformational change. China clearly saw action on climate change as serving its own interest and as an opportunity to pursue a green growth model that decouples economic development from carbon emissions and resource dependence.
In the past five years, the world has witnessed the emergence of China as a leader for tackling climate change. A few weeks ago, colleagues at the World Bank Group heard an evidenced-based presentation by Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua from the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, who showed what China had done in the past, is doing now, and plans to do in the future. He shared his candid assessment of the challenges, mistakes, and lessons learned from China's experience.
China’s progress is impressive. Between 2005 and 2013, average economic growth has been above 8 percent while the country’s emissions intensity has decreased by 28.5 percent compared with 2005 levels. This equates to emissions reductions of 23 million tons of CO2. These reductions were achieved through massive closures of inefficient coal fire plants, aggressive energy efficiency programs, expanding the renewable energy program, and large investments in clean technology.
While these numbers are impressive, sustaining them will be harder. Over the last 10 years, China has targeted its "low-hanging fruit" for mitigation options. The challenge today is how China will sustain annual GDP growth of more than 7 percent while continuing to reduce its economy’s emissions intensity.
Climate change is a threat to global development and to poverty alleviation. And yet, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is proving difficult because all players in an economy contribute to the problem. To make a difference, we must reduce our emissions in a coordinated manner.
This is no easy task. So where do we go from here?
One approach involves pricing the “externalities” that are contributing to climate change. Pricing externalities into the costs of production is nothing new. A classic textbook example is the paper mill that sits upstream from a fishing village.
Discharge from the mill pollutes the river, diminishing the fishermen’s catch. The mill freely uses the water of the river in its production of paper, but does not pay for the damage of the negative externality that it causes. To remedy the situation, regulations can be put in place to stop waste from going into the river – or the mill can pay a fine equivalent to the loss of the fishermen’s revenue.
The latter is an example of an externality priced into the cost of production. The same can be done to combat climate change.
In this case, carbon emissions are the externality that must be priced. Doing so provides a cost-effective and efficient means to drive down greenhouse gas emissions as the cost of such pollution goes up.