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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