California Cap-and-Trade Auction Success

The results of California’s first ever auction for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowances are public, marking the start of a new era for stimulating innovative solutions to combat climate change. Coincidentally, earlier today new atmospheric data was released by NOAA showing that 2012 is on pace to be the warmest year, eclipsing the mark set only two years ago.

By establishing a hard cap on emissions and creating a carbon price through a trading mechanism, California’s comprehensive GHG program complements, and is fine-tuned based on experiences from the world’s other climate change cap-and-trade mitigation programs. For example, lessons learned from the world’s largest cap and trade program in the European Union have shown that emissions of GHGs can actually decrease while the economy grows. Similarly, as shown by the Analysis Group’s report of the cap-and-trade program in the Northeastern United States, in addition to creating a strong signal for innovation, money generated through an auction can be invested in ways to cut GHGs even further.

Based on today’s results, California’s program is performing according to the expectations of economic experts and policy makers. The market price ($10.09) for credits that can be used in 2013 was slightly above the floor price of $10 dollars. Also, there were more bids for 2013 credits than credits sold, with 97% of allowances going to covered entities. Put simply, regulated businesses are taking this market seriously and believe they can cut greenhouse gas emissions even more cheaply than anticipated. This is a very good thing for California.

At the same time as the California carbon auction sold 23 million allowances for use starting in 2013, the market also sold 5.5 million allowances for use in 2015 and beyond. This is a clear signal that investors see this as a lasting program, and provides an important signal that the 9 billion plus dollars of clean tech investment made in California since 2006 has strong backing.

A California carbon price opens the door for cleaner energy and clean air, as we finally have an “official” cost of pollution. We are marching more resolutely than ever into an economically and environmentally sustainable future.


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