The Future Of Carbon Credits

Although the current investment climate for carbon credits is a bright one, the future could hold even more promise – in a very big way. As of now most of the industrialized countries in the world are working under some sort of carbon tax system as prescribed by the Kyoto protocols. However, the world’s three biggest polluters are not: India, China and the U.S. When these countries sign on to the protocols then the market should explode. What are the chances of this happening in the near future? It’s hard to say but it depends, as you may have guessed, on politics.
Politics in the U.S. to start, but also in China. First, though, U.S. President Obama has to make clear what he intends to do this year, if anything, on his carbon credit – or as it’s called in the U.S., cap and trade – policy. He started the year with a very positive agenda and seemed committed to making progress. However, since June his direction and resolve have seemed rather vague. And with the mid-term elections looming in November the situation becomes even more complicated. Republicans look poised to regain a majority of seat in the House of Representatives and also gain in the Senate. This could make passage of any kind of cap and trade legislation difficult because Republicans tend to favor big business and big business figures that cap and trade will cost them money.
So the direction forward in the U.S. will most likely be uncertain until after November 2. And even then it may take a considerable amount of time to get any legislation passed. But if laws mandating carbon offsetting ever do take place in the U.S. the effect on the carbon market will be immense. First, the U.S. itself is a huge market and the demand for certified carbon offset projects will skyrocket.
Secondly, there will be a knock-on effect in regard to China and India. Up until now, justifiably so, China and India have resisted signing on to Kyoto because of the U.S. refusal to do so. If the U.S. agrees, however, then there will be pressure on China and India to follow and it probably won’t take long for them to do so.
And in China’s case there is additional incentive because China is positioning itself as the world leader in green energy technology. It would be very difficult for China to continue on that path without at the same time ratifying the Kyoto protocols. Their rapidly developing stature in this field would be greatly enhanced by their ratification of Kyoto and their participation in some form of carbon emission control. The addition of China would also greatly increase demand as would India’s participation.
So what does the future hold for the global carbon offset market? It all may boil down ultimately to an election that will take place in the U.S. in about six weeks. Then again, it may not. Obama may not have the political capital or will to force through his carbon cap and trade policy even if the Democrats maintain their present level of control in the government.
His primary concern is the American joblessness problem and the economy as a whole so carbon may take a back seat no matter who wins in November. Until then, though, it’s anybody’s guess as to what may happen. Watch for an update after November.

Tom Aikins is a Bangkok-based consultant specializing in search engine optimization and internet marketing at http://www.seonorthamerica.com. He regularly presents seminars on these subjects and also writes about the carbon offset industry for the website http://www.carbonoffsetstandard.com.

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What Are Carbon Credits

Carbon credits are a financial instrument that is part of national and international attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One carbon credit is equal to one ton of destroyed greenhouse gasses. These credits are generated by projects that either absorb carbon or otherwise reduce emissions through clean energy. Many individuals are now taking an interest in their carbon footprints, trying to lower their usage, as well as trying different ways to offset their carbon usage.

Carbon credits are part of an approach to emissions trading. With a certain amount of greenhouse gas allotted to markets, each individual group is given the opportunity to decide how much of a limited amount can be designated to each area. This allows industries to control the amount of greenhouse gasses they are using. This also allows industrial and commercial processes to market in the direction of lower emissions, or approaches that are used to not emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. This helps to finance carbon reduction schemes.

Carbon credits are in two different markets, the large compliance market and the smaller voluntary market. Corporations and industries participate in the compliance market where they purchase carbon offsets to comply with caps on carbon dioxide emissions. In 2006, about $ 5.5 billion of carbon offsets were purchased in the compliance market. This represents about 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2e reductions.

Many companies sell carbon credits. Carbon credits are purchased from investment funds or carbon development companies. Many of these companies have saved these credits from other individual products, and offset themselves and the buyers by selling them. The quality of the credits is based on the validation process, the type of fund, and the development company. The price is also affected by these things. Voluntary units typically have less value than the units sold through the rigorously-validated Clean Development Mechanism.

There are common features to carbon offsets: vintage, source, and certification regime. Vintage refers to the year in which the carbon reduction takes place, while the source refers to the project or technology used in offsetting the carbon emissions. The certification regime describes the rules and regulations that are in correlation to the carbon offsets.

In the smaller, voluntary market, individuals, companies, and others purchase carbon offsets because of their own determination to lower greenhouse emissions. The emissions they focus on lowering are most often transportation and electricity usage. In 2006, about $ 91 million of carbon offsets were purchased in the voluntary market, representing about 24 million metric tons of CO2e reductions.

There are two distinct types of carbon credits: carbon offset credits (COCs) and carbon reduction credits (CRCs). Carbon offset credits consist of clean forms of energy production, wind, solar, hydro and biofuels. Carbon reduction credits consist of the collection and storage of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere through reforestation, forestation, ocean and soil collection and storage efforts. Both ways are valid and positively recognized, each used in different situations.

Carbon credits initially came into existence as an attempt to inform and create awareness of the need to control emissions. Since then, it has been proven that the concept of carbon credits can be highly successful. This tradable system is one of the policy instruments that are very effective. As long as prices are maintained it should continue to be positive.

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