Climate 411

Despite threat of repeal, Washington state’s carbon market continues to raise urgently-needed revenue for communities in The Evergreen State

Photo of Mount Rainer

Results were released today for Washington’s second quarterly auction of 2024, administered last Wednesday by the Department of Ecology (Ecology). During the auction, participating entities submitted their bids for allowances. Under the Climate Commitment Act, Washington’s major emitters are required to hold one allowance for every ton of greenhouse gas that they emit, with the total number of allowances available declining each year. This requires polluters in Washington to reduce their emissions in line with the state’s climate targets. By distributing allowances via auction, the state can both regulate emissions and raise important revenue to invest in frontline communities, accelerate clean job creation, and more.

Here are the results, released today:

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California’s second carbon market auction of the year raises revenue at critical time for climate funds

This blog was co-authored by Sara Olsen, Project Manager, California Political Affairs

Results of the latest Western Climate Initiative auction were released today, showing continued demand for allowances and confidence in the long-term stability of this landmark program. This auction is expected to generate roughly $1.1 billion for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), which is dedicated to funding initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.

A new report from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) finds that, in the past 10 years, climate investments like GGRF have reduced California’s emissions by 109.2 million metric tons — the equivalent to taking 80% of the state’s gas cars off the road — by investing in projects like adding zero-emissions transport options, building affordable housing near job centers and more. As California heads into another summer with an increased risk for wildfire and more impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly severe and evident, the importance of this fund is clearer than ever.

May auction results

  • All 51,589,488 current vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased, resulting in the 15th consecutive sold out auction. This is 0.72% or 373,000 more allowances than were offered at the previous auction.
  • The current auction settled at a price of $37.02, $12.98 above the $24.04 price floor and $4.74 below the February 2024 settlement price of $41.76.
  • All of the 7,211,000 future vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased — these allowances can be used for compliance beginning in 2027. This is the same number of future vintage allowances that were offered at the previous advance auction.
  • Future vintage allowances settled at $38.35, $14.31 above the $24.04 floor price and $2.65 below the February settlement price of $41.00.

What factors may be at play with these results?

A number of factors could be at play with today’s results which saw a lower settlement price than California’s most recent auction. The first is general market variability; potential program changes, such as those being considered by CARB, can drive uncertainty among market participants that results in price fluctuations. While prices in the WCI auctions tend to tick upwards, it’s not uncommon for prices to drop once in a while. This happened most recently in the August and November auctions in 2022, where prices dropped from the May 2022 price of $30.85 down to $27, and then down to $26.80 before starting to trend upward again. Last auction’s settlement price of $41.76 was a record price by $3.03, so today’s price puts the WCI market more on trend with where prices were in November and August of last year. Despite slightly lower prices this quarter, there’s still strong demand overall; the auction was completely sold out. The market continues to be stable, and some price fluctuations are to be expected, especially during periods of program adjustment.

Where is the revenue getting invested?

Over the past ten years, California delivered $11 billion from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to more than half a million projects that cut pollution and mitigate the impacts of climate change. These investments yield meaningful environmental and community benefits, including a 109 million metric ton reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, 1,248 new or expanded transit projects, 29,800 new jobs, and 12,606 affordable housing projects under contract.

The $1.1 billion in revenue for GGRF from this auction comes at a critical moment, as California grapples with a $27.6 billion budget deficit. As the Governor and policymakers explore budget strategies, climate initiatives face the looming threat of funding cuts. In January, Governor Newsom proposed more than $3.1 billion in cuts and more than $5 billion in delays for climate funding. In the May Revision of his 2023-24 Budget Proposal, Governor Newsom proposed over $3 billion in additional cuts to significant climate investments. The proposal also reallocated funding for various climate programs to GGRF, relying on this source to alleviate the effects of the budget deficit.

Cap-and-trade, through emissions reductions and revenue generation, will be pivotal in addressing California’s current budget and climate challenges. The State’s reliance on the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund as a lifeline for essential climate initiatives only further underscores the need for these funds to be allocated strategically and exclusively towards climate and environmental justice priorities.

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

Governor Inslee moves Washington state one step closer to linking carbon market with California and Quebec

Today, the state of Washington took a big step toward linking its cap-and-invest program with the carbon markets in California and Quebec, a move that could boost climate action and create a more stable, more predictable market for all. Governor Inslee signed E2SB 6058 into law, which will further align Washington’s program with the joint California-Quebec program (known as the Western Climate Initiative) and facilitate a smoother linkage process.

This latest development builds on the momentum of last week’s joint statement from the three jurisdictions, in which they expressed their shared interest in the potential creation of a larger, linked market among them. While Governor Inslee and Washington policymakers are tackling climate change head-on and trying to strengthen the state’s carbon market, a wealthy hedge fund executive is trying to bring climate progress to a screeching halt through a ballot initiative that would end the program altogether. The contrast between the two outcomes for Washington’s cap-and-invest program could not be starker.

Here’s what you need to know about the linkage bill and what’s at stake with Washington’s program.

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Auction results and budget decisions emphasize importance of investments from Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act

This blog was co-authored by Janet Zamudio, Western States Climate Policy Intern

The last week has been eventful in Washington, seeing the end of legislative session last Thursday and the first quarterly cap-and-invest auction of 2024, which posted results today. With the legislative session wrapped up and budgets passed, we now know what additional spending lawmakers plan to do with the revenue generated by these cap-and-invest auctions thanks to the supplemental budget passed last week. And with the results from the first auction of 2024 now in the books, it seems the Evergreen State will continue to see significant revenue from this program to reinvest in communities, clean energy projects and climate resilience. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s start with the auction results:

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As it enters its eleventh year, California’s cap-and-trade program continues to raise revenue to fight the climate crisis

This blog was co-authored by Katelyn Roedner Sutter, California State Director 

Results of the latest Western Climate Initiative auction were released today, and we continue to see strong demand for allowances. This was the first quarterly auction of 2024, and it was a strong start for this marquee climate program.

This auction is expected to generate roughly $1.31 billion for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which will invest in projects around the state that electrify transportation, reduce household energy costs, strengthen resilience to natural disasters, and more. This funding comes at a crucial time, as California faces both ongoing impacts from climate change and a challenging budget year.

February auction results

  • All 51.2 million current vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased, resulting in the 14th consecutive sold-out auction. This is 11% or 6.4 million fewer allowances than were offered at the previous auction.
  • The current auction settled at a record price of $41.76, $17.72 above the $24.04 floor price and $3.03 above the November 2023 settlement price of $38.73.
  • All of the 7.2 million future vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased — these allowances can be used for compliance beginning in 2027. This is about 366,000 allowances fewer than were offered at the previous advance auction.
  • Future vintage allowances settled at $41.00, $16.96 above the $24.04 floor price and $3.60 above the November settlement price of $37.40.

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One year into its cap-and-invest program, Washington state looks to build upon its landmark climate law

Photo of mountain in Washington state

Results were released today for Washington’s fourth quarterly cap-and-invest auction, which was held on December 6th. The results from this sold-out auction show continued strong demand for allowances in the program, which has brought in substantial revenue for the state of Washington to reinvest in its communities. This is the final auction of 2023, marking the end of this program’s first year of auctions, which in total have generated close to $2 billion for Washington communities. The revenue has already begun to be distributed to different projects that benefit communities across the state, including expanding public transportation in rural areas and improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety, with much more investment to come.

December auction results

At the auction, administered by the Department of Ecology (Ecology), participating facilities submitted their bids for allowances. Washington’s major emitters are required to hold one allowance for every ton of greenhouse gas that they emit, with the total number of available allowances declining each year. This declining cap requires Washington’s businesses to reduce their climate pollution in line with the state’s climate targets. Here are the results, released today:

  • All 7,142,146 current vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased, resulting in the 4th consecutive sold out quarterly auction.
  • The current auction settled at $51.89, $29.69 above the floor price of $22.20, and $11.14 below Washington’s last quarterly auction price of $63.03.
  • This auction is projected to generate roughly $370 million in revenue, which will be invested into Washington communities to enhance climate resilience, create jobs, and improve air quality. A report from Ecology confirming the amount of revenue raised in this auction will be published on January 4.

What these results mean

The settlement price for this auction is a very promising indication of strong and stable demand in the Washington market. Covered entities are still eager to acquire allowances early in the program, but the fact that this auction settled below the Allowance Price Containment Reserve (APCR) trigger price shows that those entities also feel more confident in their ability to secure enough allowances or to further reduce their emissions.

The lower settlement price in this auction compared to recent auctions could be driven by a few factors; for one, this could be the result of previous APCR auctions fulfilling their role as price stabilizers in a market with high demand. APCR allowances were budgeted out ahead of time when the cap-and-invest program was originally designed, and they’re still under the overall allowance budget set by Ecology in order to keep Washington on track with its climate targets. Making these additional allowances available at a predetermined and transparent price point through the APCR helps to stabilize allowance prices in the program, and that’s precisely why Ecology designed this feature into the program from the start. Entities who were able to secure additional allowances at the two APCR auctions held this year may have felt more confident in this auction that they don’t need to scramble to out-bid other entities to buy up allowances.

Another factor that may have driven slightly calmer demand in this auction is the recent decision by Washington’s Department of Ecology to officially pursue linkage with the joint California-Quebec market, known as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). The December auction was the first auction to be held following this decision, and this step towards a larger, linked market with greater access to more allowances may have given covered entities more confidence in their ability to obtain allowances in the future through this broader market. Read on for more information about this milestone decision, what it means, and what’s next!

Looking ahead: Linkage and the legislative session

In case you missed it, early last month the Department of Ecology officially announced its intention to pursue linkage with the California-Quebec market. This decision is a significant milestone in the linkage process, and if California and Quebec follow suit, it would lead to a tri-jurisdictional system operated jointly by all three parties. California, Quebec, and Washington would all be able to pool their supply of emission allowances and hold shared auctions. As we’ve written previously, these jurisdictions all stand to benefit from a linked market as it can drive faster cuts in climate pollution and support a more stable, predictable market for all participants.

Before that happens though, there are a lot of things to get done. California and Quebec each have their own processes to go through and there’s some legislative fine-tuning that Ecology is planning to request in order to make the linkage process as smooth as possible.

That means potentially making small, strategic updates to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) to build alignment with the joint California-Quebec program, with the goal of making it easier to operate as a single, linked market. The CCA is the landmark climate policy that Washington passed in 2021 that placed a firm, declining limit on climate pollution while also providing new tools for tackling local air pollution and creating the cap-and-invest market. Thanks to the CCA, Washington is one of only a few states in the nation that’s actually on track to meet its targets. Now, state leaders have an opportunity to scale up the state’s climate action by ensuring that Washington’s cap-and-invest market is ready to deliver enhanced climate and cost-savings benefits as part of a linked market.

As things progress in the legislative session, we’ll be keeping an eye on all things CCA and linkage — stay tuned for our updates and analysis!

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed