By Emily Reyna and Katherine Hsia-Kiung
Last Friday, California companies participated in the fourth cap-and-trade auction since the program’s historic opening in November 2012. The results of this auction will be made public on Wednesday, but even without the exact numbers, the program’s previous success is proving the carbon market won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Just look at the scoreboard so far and you’ll see California’s economy is rebounding. And, despite efforts by the program’s opponents to shut down the program, every auction to date has seen strong and diverse bidder participation, complete sale of current allowances, and steady demand for future allowances.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, given California’s successful, albeit brief, history of cap-and-trade. On the eve of the first auction, the California Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit to invalidate the auctions and spark doubt in the minds of the auction participants. However, this underhanded ploy was unable to achieve what it had intended, and the auction went off smoothly.
Similarly, just before the third auction last May — and on the same day as the release of the state’s plan for program expansion –Pacific Legal Foundation strategically filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of a handful of companies attempting to block the auctions. This once again did nothing to thwart the program’s success. Every current allowance was purchased come auction time at a settlement price an impressive 31% above the floor price. Almost 80% of the future allowances were also purchased, indicating the overall belief that the litigation brought against the program had no validity.
Since the third auction, the secondary market (for future sales of) carbon allowances has remained relatively stable. While there might be a bearish tone to this week’s auction with regard to price of allowances, we remain quite bullish with regard to the main goal of the program, which is to reduce carbon emissions in the most cost-effective way possible. This is happening. The program’s ambitious cap is in place, companies are already finding ways to reduce emissions, and the fact they can do it while paying around $14 per permit is also telling. It means they can grow their business without producing so much carbon that they need to surrender more allowances.
The continual success of the cap-and-trade program is evidence of a well-constructed, strong, and adaptive policy that will undoubtedly continue to achieve the ultimate goal of curbing California’s carbon pollution while growing the California economy. The carbon market naysayers have long made claims that this program would increase the cost of business in California, decrease the number of jobs, and lead to economic disaster. But we’re seeing just the opposite. According to an analysis published by Bloomberg early last week, California’s economy is experiencing sustained and promising growth, prodded on by a strengthening housing market and decreasing unemployment rate. In June alone, more than 30,000 new jobs were created in the state, the largest increase for that month in the entire country. In the past 12 months, the unemployment rate in California has fallen by 2.1 percentage points, outpacing the rest of the country by a factor of more than three.
During nine of those months, the state has been regulated under the cap-and-trade program. It is clear that arguments mounted against the policy claiming negative repercussions on the state’s economy are completely unfounded.
California is leading the country in the number of green jobs up and down the state, from Orange County to San Joaquin County. As we await the results of the fourth auction, we can cite this data and be confident in a viable and efficient carbon market that’s helping to make California stronger than ever.