- “carbon Pricing Mechanisms In European Energy Markets”
- These Countries Have Prices On Carbon. Are They Working?
- European Union Emissions Trading System
“carbon Pricing Mechanisms In European Energy Markets” – An introduction to carbon pricing, including carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes, the benefits and design of pricing policies, and applications around the world.
Carbon pricing is a climate policy approach used in a number of countries and sub-national jurisdictions (regions, states, provinces, cities) around the world. Carbon pricing works by charging emitters for the tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) they are responsible for. CO₂ is mostly emitted from the burning of fossil fuels used for power generation, industrial production, transportation and energy use in residential and commercial buildings.
“carbon Pricing Mechanisms In European Energy Markets”
This explainer is part of ‘s Carbon Pricing Explainer series, which lays out the basics of carbon pricing, from what it really means to how it impacts people and the economy.
Alternative Carbon Price Trajectories Can Avoid Excessive Carbon Removal
A carbon tax is a price set per tonne of carbon or, more commonly, per tonne of CO₂ emitted. Because CO₂ emissions from burning fossil fuels are proportional to the carbon content of the fuel, a carbon tax is effectively a tax on CO₂. A tax of $1 per tonne of CO₂ is equivalent to a tax of $3.7 per tonne of carbon, since carbon is about 3/11 of the weight of CO₂.
A cap-and-trade program limits the total amount of CO₂ that can be emitted by certain installations. In a cap-and-trade program, the government issues a limited number of carbon credits (also called permits), each giving the holder the right to emit one tonne of CO₂. Allowances can be distributed in a number of ways: they can be allocated directly to companies or entities (a concept known as free allocation of allowances) or they can be sold through auction markets. The limited, state-controlled supply of allowances “limits” the total amount of emissions. Allowances can be traded, and the sale and purchase (supply and demand) of allowances results in a market price for allowances – essentially the price of a tonne of CO₂ emissions.
Some cap-and-trade programs include provisions for the banking and borrowing of allowances over time: permits issued in one year may be filed to account for issuance in later years (banking), and permits for future years may be filed in the Issued and used over time Current year (loan). With banking and borrowing, emissions during a given year may be more or less than the number of allowances issued that year, but over time the emissions and allowances balance out. Banking and borrowing gives companies more flexibility in compliance methods and reduces the cost of meeting a cumulative emissions target.
One of the main differences between carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs is the type of security they offer. Carbon taxes provide price certainty because taxpayers know how much they have to pay per tonne emitted – but simply setting a tax rate does not guarantee a specific amount of emissions reduction. Cap-and-trade programs, on the other hand, cap emissions and thus provide quantity certainty – however, price fluctuations in the trading market structure can provide a less robust basis for business planning decisions. However, hybrid systems can be used to reduce price or emissions uncertainty. Under cap-and-trade programs, price floors and ceilings have been proposed and used to prevent prices from being “too low” or “too high”. Carbon taxes can also be designed to automatically adjust when actual emissions exceed a predetermined emissions pathway.
How Can Europe Get Carbon Border Adjustment Right?
Carbon pricing policies—carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs alike—have several characteristics that make them generally more efficient or less expensive than other potential measures to reduce carbon emissions (e.g., technology regulations, direct regulations, subsidies to zero). -Carbon energy sources and others). Some of these key attributes are explained below.
Carbon pricing allows companies to choose the most efficient way to reduce (or not reduce) emissions in response to the carbon price. Under other policies, such as technology regulations, a regulator chooses a single method for a variety of companies. Such unified approaches can result in unnecessarily costly reductions for some companies when cheaper methods of reducing emissions exist.
An economy-wide carbon price sets a uniform price for CO₂ emissions, regardless of the source. This balances the marginal abatement cost (the cost to businesses of reducing their emissions by one unit) across businesses and sectors. This is a necessary condition for minimizing the overall cost of reducing emissions. Regulations often result in different marginal abatement costs across companies and sectors: if a sector has regulation with very high marginal abatement costs, it may be more cost-effective to remove that regulation and introduce stricter regulations in sectors with lower abatement costs. In practice, this would be very difficult for regulators to achieve, but it is an inherent feature of carbon pricing.
A carbon price encourages individuals and companies to reduce their carbon emissions more than traditional regulations. Traditional regulation (e.g. a performance standard) imposes a strict cap on emissions per unit of production, but offers no incentive to reduce aggregate demand. In contrast, carbon pricing provides incentives to reduce emissions per unit of production, but also charges a price for each additional tonne of CO₂ that is not reduced through efficiency gains. Therefore, the price of carbon-intensive goods (e.g. electricity or petrol) is likely to be higher under a carbon price than under traditional regulations, encouraging individuals and companies to reduce their demand (where possible). Thus, a carbon price promotes more environmental protection than traditional regulations.
Why Carbon Pricing Falls Short
A carbon price creates a new revenue stream that can be used in a variety of ways. The use of the proceeds can have a significant impact on the economic costs and political feasibility of a carbon pricing policy. This is discussed in more detail below.
The price of carbon-intensive goods such as petrol will likely be higher under a carbon price than under traditional regulations, resulting in more environmental protection. Photo: k_samurkas/Shutterstock
Beyond choosing between a tax and a cap, there are many policy options for applying a carbon price to the economy, all with different impacts on overall costs, emission reductions, increased revenue, etc.
According to economic theory, pricing emissions yields the highest net benefit (environmental, health and other benefits minus economic costs) when the price of carbon equals the marginal damage of carbon emissions, or the damage caused by adding an extra tonne of carbon dioxide gets into the atmosphere. This would be achieved either by making the carbon tax equal to marginal damage, or through a cap-and-trade scheme by capping emissions to a level that results in a price for carbon credits equal to marginal damage. This marginal damage is often referred to as the “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC).
These Countries Have Prices On Carbon. Are They Working?
When private decision-makers cause harm to an independent third party, that harm is referred to as a negative externality. For example, when a power plant produces electricity and sells it to its customers, the pollution it produces can affect the health of nearby communities. The health effects of this pollution would be a negative externality of the power plant’s power generation and sales.
Arthur Pigou’s seminal 1920 book The Economics of Welfare introduced the idea of taxing negative externalities. In his book, Pigou showed that taxing a negative externality at a price equal to marginal damage internalizes the externality and maximizes overall good.
The stringency of the policy is determined by the level of the tax rate (in the context of a carbon tax) or the level of the cap on emissions (in the context of cap and trade) and how these change over time. A $50 carbon tax is stricter than a $10 carbon tax: it results in lower emissions and higher costs. In setting stringency, policymakers must make a trade-off between environmental goals and the cost of achieving those goals. In the United States, policy severity is often framed in terms of international agreements or temperature targets: Policy A will meet the Paris 2025 targets, or Policy B will limit warming to 2 degrees.
The scope of a carbon pricing policy determines which economic sectors and which types of emissions are covered by the carbon price. For example, the European Union Emissions Trading System cap and trade program covers CO₂, nitrous oxide (N₂O) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs) emitted by 11,000 energy-intensive installations in the power and manufacturing sectors in 31 European countries. Overall, the policy covers about 40 percent of the EU’s greenhouse gases. By comparison, British Columbia’s carbon tax applies to the purchase and use of fossil fuels regardless of the end-use sector and covers about 70 percent of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.
European Union Emissions Trading System
The point of regulating a carbon price determines exactly who has to submit permits or pay the tax to the government. An upstream carbon tax would tax fossil fuel producers on the carbon content (and thus the ultimate CO₂ emissions) of their products. A midstream tax would tax the first buyer of fossil fuels in the supply chain. For example, a midstream tax would require a refiner to pay for the carbon content of all crude oil it purchases. A deferred tax applies to the issuer: for example, coal-fired power plants, industrial users, or households and businesses that use gasoline in their vehicles or natural gas in their homes and businesses. The management costs of a carbon
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