In 2011, carbon markets traded a total of €96 billion worth of pollution allowances and carbon credits. In 2012, the figure was €62 billion. In 2013, it fell to €38.4 billion. The price of EUAs (EU Allowances) has fallen from €18 in 2011 to €5.
Those are the findings of Thomson Reuters Point Carbon’s review of the carbon markets in 2013, under the headline “Global carbon market contracts by 38% in 2013 as prices and volumes drop.”
The collapse in the UN’s “flexible mechanisms”, including the clean development mechanism, is even more severe. The spot price for CERs (Certified Emissions Reductions) on the European Energy Exchange is currently €0.35 per tonne of carbon dioxide. (In August 2013 it was €0.61.) The UN flexible mechanisms now account for 1% of the value of the world’s carbon markets. And investment in new CDM projects has ground to a halt.
Point Carbon notes that the EU Emission Trading System dominates world carbon markets with 88% of volume and 94% of value. There are other carbon markets, in North America and China, for example. And China’s markets are potentially huge. Five of seven planned carbon markets were launched in China in 2013, in Guangdong, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin.
But without meaningful emission reductions targets, the price of carbon will remain low, as Anders Nordeng, Point Carbon’s Senior Carbon Analyst, explains:
“The main explanation for the falling prices in carbon markets around the world is the very modest emission reduction targets adopted for the period up to 2020. Without ambitious climate targets there is no need for deep emission reductions and carbon prices will remain at low levels. However, if the goal to limit global warming to two degrees shall be met, more dramatic cuts are needed over the next decades. The international negotiations towards a new climate agreement scheduled to be adopted in Paris in 2015 will be a litmus test on the political willingness among large emitters to make the required emission reductions.”
Ecosystem Marketplace’s review of REDD in 2013 is titled, “Supply-Side Success, Demand-Side Dilemmas”. Ecosystem Marketplace explains that as well as a series of “productive meetings” at the UN level during 2013,
private-sector conservationists were securing endangered rainforest at an unprecedented rate – in part because they thought the UNFCCC would be further along now than it is. As a result, the year ended with global agreement on how to move forward with REDD in under the UNFCCC, but with more than 150 private projects struggling to find buyers and a handful of regional initiatives in various states of development.
Ecosystem Marketplace then dives into a review of its coverage of carbon markets in 2013. The word “demand” appears three times in the review. Once in the headline, once in a sub-heading and once in this sentence:
With voluntary demand in doubt, we examined Microsoft’s policy of charging itself an internal carbon fee that it uses to buy offsets around the world.
Despite the headline, Ecosystem Marketplace’s review of 2013 is about the supply side, not the demand side: The generation of potentially very large amounts of REDD carbon credits in a market faced with massive oversupply.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts that EU carbon prices will rise in 2014, from just below €5 to €7.50, as a result of the EU’s efforts to address oversupply by “backloading” auctions of allowances. (The EU will postpone auctions of EUAs that would have been auctioned in 2014-2016.)
Point Carbon’s Nordeng is more cautious in his carbon price predictions for 2014:
“If policy makers now follow up with the actual implementation of backloading, as well as with structural reform of the carbon market, we expect European carbon prices to remain stable around €5, or possibly pick up this year.”
Guy Turner, chief economist and head of commodities at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, compares carbon markets in recent years to a roller coaster:
“Carbon markets have been on a roller coaster over the last few years and we continue to see a stomach-churning ride ahead. The value of the market peaked at around EUR 100bn in 2011 and then plummeted to around EUR 40bn in 2013. Thanks to backloading in the EU ETS, the track should turn upwards again in 2014, potentially reaching new highs of EUR 180bn by 2016. The roller coaster could well take another dip downwards towards 2020 if the backloading rules remain in place, as they would force supply to increase again in the latter years of the decade.”
Backloading is not a long-term solution to the oversupply problem because the allowances will be actioned anyway in a few years’ time. But Turners final sentence is fascinating and reveals a great deal about carbon markets:
“For compliance players, this volatility will be unwelcome. But for speculators with a sense of adventure and good timing, they could prove tempting in 2014.”
PHOTO Credit: Carbon Markets: Trading with our Future, by Occupy Cop17.