Saturday, November 28, 2015

Carbon Prices - Work in Progress, Not Panacea, for Rich and Poor

Steam rises at sunset from the cooling towers of the Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power station at Nogent-Sur-Seine, France, November 13, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau)  Click to Enlarge.
It was supposed to be the way the market would cut greenhouse gases by itself:  governments selling companies permits-to-pollute, which they could trade among themselves.  Over time, the number of permits would be reduced, and the cost to companies of failing to cut emissions would rise.

Yet, 10 years after the EU launched the world's biggest carbon trading scheme, the effectiveness of the concept is in question and climate activists are disenchanted or hostile.

While there is still support for national or regional markets, not least in China, which plans to launch the world's biggest scheme in 2017, any hopes of creating a global carbon market at next week's U.N. climate conference in Paris look wildly optimistic.

Major corporations, in particular, back the concept because its costs are more predictable than those of prospective future regulations.
The best test case, for now, is the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, which raised 8.9 billion euros ($9.4 billion) in the three years to June 2015, according to European Commission figures.

Jos Delbeke, director general of the Commission's climate action department and one of the chief architects of the ETS, says it has shown, crucially, that reducing carbon emissions is compatible with economic growth.

He says the EU's gross domestic product has risen 46 percent since 1990, while greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 23 percent, and that the ETS is still central to EU efforts to tackle climate change.
But critics say it is unclear how much of this was a direct result of the ETS, as opposed to Europe's economic slowdown.

They also say the revenues generated have merely boosted general government coffers rather than being spent on the environment, let alone on the poorer countries that pollute least but are set to suffer most from climate change.
At the same time, in the absence of a global carbon pricing system, industry continues to complain that the cost of permits is driving it to leave Europe for cheaper regulatory environments.

Read more at Carbon Prices - Work in Progress, Not Panacea, for Rich and Poor

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