Emission trading exchanges

Chicago Climate Exchange

Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), launched in 2003, is the world’s first and North America’s only active voluntary, legally binding integrated trading system to reduce emissions of all six major greenhouse gases (GHGs), with offset projects worldwide.

Reductions achieved through CCX are the only reductions made in North America through a legally binding compliance regime, providing independent, third party verification.

I’ve been skeptical of this, but apparently it does get results. Emissions trading has been successful in phasing out lead from gasoline and in reducing acid rain.

Wikipedia explains how it works.

The buyer [of the emissions credit] is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, in theory, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society.

This assumes that the system can’t be gamed and that it operates transparently and openly. It is also important for the controlling body to continually be reducing the number of emission credits available over a period of time to force the price up.

The system can scale, at witness the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, the largest greenhouse gas trading system in the world. It appears to be mandatory for large emitters, unlike the US market which is voluntary.

In order to make sure that real trading emerges (and that CO2 emissions are reduced), EU governments must make sure that the total amount of allowances issued to installations is less than the amount that would have been emitted under a business-as-usual scenario.


  1. To see how emissions trading works (or not) this new documentary, which examines the impact of carbon trading around the world, might be of interest.

    The Carbon Connection looks at two communities affected by one new global market – the trade in carbon dioxide. In Scotland a town has been polluted by oil and chemical companies since the 1940s. In Brazil local people’s water and land is being swallowed up by destructive monoculture eucalyptus tree plantations. Both communities now share a new threat. As part of the deal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause dangerous climate change, major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions instead of cutting their own pollution.

    What this means for those living next to the oil industry in Scotland is the continuation of pollution caused by their toxic neighbours. Meanwhile in Brazil the schemes that generate carbon credits gives an injection of cash for more planting of the damaging eucalyptus tree. The two communities are now connected by bearing the brunt of the new trade in carbon credits. The Carbon Connection follows the story of two groups of people from each community who learned to use video cameras and made their own films about living with the impacts of the carbon market. From mental health issues in Scotland to the loss of medicinal plants in Brazil, the communities discover the connections they have with each other and the film follows them on this journey.

    40 minutes | PAL/NTSC | English/Spanish/Portuguese subtitles

    More information at http://www.carbontradewatch.org/carbonconnection/

  2. No real evidence for this working.. the atmospheric sulphur reduction you refer to.. the US Clean AIr act trading scheme resulted in a reduction of about 30% over a 20 year period whereas Germany in a similar time frame reduced it by 90% using traditional ‘command and control’ legislation. Also, the trading in these pollution credits on the US resulted in the creation of ‘toxic hot spots’ around low income communities and communities of colour.

    The EU trading scheme has been a disaster to date.. running on polluter profits rather than polluter pays, and at Bali we see the World Bank coming more and mroe to the forefront as the main player in the buying and selling of these credits and financing the projects to generate the credits.

    Make no mistake, carbon trading is all about capital accumulation and land grabbing, and the logical extension of the prevailing neo-liberal economic model.

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