EU ETS Monthly Report — March 2019

European carbon prices drifted 3.3% in March as utility demand faded amid poor generating margins for coal. The December 2019 futures contract ended the month at €21.54 after trading in a €3 range between €20.50 and €23.50.

Persistent weakness in natural gas prices meant that fuel-switching was the main market driver. Calendar 2020 TTF futures fell 8.7% in March, while API2 coal lost 10% and German power declined 5.5%.

The combination of price moves meant that gas-fired power remains more profitable than coal, with the result that demand for carbon allowances for future hedging was depressed. Utilities were notable for their modest participation in the market.

The onset of milder weather reduced heating demand, while a number of traders also highlighted weakening economic data that may signal a decline in industrial production.

Screen trading activity on ICE Futures declined, with 345 million EUAs changing hands in the benchmark EUA futures contract in March, compared with 415 million in February. However, there was a notable uptick in broker-arranged deals in the second half of the month, with so-called block trades on ICE reaching as much as 35 million EUAs on March 20, compared with the daily average of 8.6 million.

Participants were hard-pressed to explain the surge in block trades; with utilities largely on the sidelines, the most common explanation was investors shifting positions through time spreads.

The continuing uncertainty surrounding Britain’s withdrawal from the EU also contributed to depressed liquidity. British lawmakers twice rejected the negotiated withdrawal agreement, but also voted against leaving the Union without a deal. As of the end of March, the UK faces leaving the EU without a deal on April 14.

April kicks off with the release of verified emissions data for 2018, which analysts expect to reveal a drop of around 3-4%. The decrease is likely to reflect the onset of widespread fuel switching, as well as a strong recovery in hydro generation. Industrial production is expected to be broadly unchanged.

Towards mid-month the Brexit saga will reach another climax, with the current departure date scheduled for April 12. It’s not clear whether Parliament will manage to ratify the withdrawal agreement by then, and most observers are expecting the UK to seek a lengthy extension of the Article 50 deadline.

This may well mean that UK installations could continue to participate in the EU ETS through to the end of Phase 3 in 2020.

The impact on the market is likely to be bullish in the very short term, with traders driving a “relief rally”, but since the UK is generally accepted to emit less CO2 than it allocates in emissions allowances, prices may well decline in the longer term.

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ALLCOT Participates in Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) Annual Assembly at World Bank Spring Meetings

As heads of state, policymakers, business leaders and civic institutions gathered in Washington D.C. for the World Bank Spring Meetings, ALLCOT joined the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) for its 3rd annual High-Level Assembly (HLA) in Washington D.C. ALLCOT has been a member of CPLC since its inception in 2015. Kevin Fertig, ALLCOT’s Director of Business Development for North America, joined other leaders in the global carbon markets to assess the progress made in expanding and deepening carbon pricing policies in the past year.

In the HLA, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim emphasized that carbon pricing is the most critical tool for countries to achieve their Paris commitments to mitigating climate change. Carbon pricing, often taking the form of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme, is the approach favored by most economists and business leaders to reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To date, it has been implemented in 42 countries and 25 subnational jurisdictions, including Canada, California, Europe and most recently China.

Carbon pricing also brings value to businesses: nearly 1,400 companies with a combined $7 trillion in revenues have set an “internal carbon price” as a means of assessing climate risk and driving company decision-making toward sustainable investments. Royal DSM CEO and CPLC Co-Chair Feike Sijbesma called it the best method for “future-proofing companies because the future is coming anyway.”

Despite this recent progress, Christine Lagarde, Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), emphasized that current average carbon prices (<$10 / ton) are still far too low; countries may need to reach a carbon price of $70 / ton by 2030 to stay on track with their commitments under the Paris Agreement. Economists and climate scientists generally agree that a price range of $40-80 will be needed by 2020, and $50-100 by 2030 – and for pricing policies to cover a much greater percentage of global emissions than today (15%). This points to the need for both governments and companies to both establish and raise carbon prices in the near future.

To build traction, the CPLC emphasized the need to improve communications on the diverse benefits of carbon pricing, and more directly engage the industries most impacted by the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Several suggestions were made on both points. To bolster communication, the HLA committed to:

  • Increasing transparency on how countries will use the revenues from carbon taxes or the sale of carbon allowances
  • Ensuring that these revenues promote countries’ other development goals (like community health and education)
  • Highlighting early successes
  • Holding town-hall-style meetings to communicate these policies to the public (and youth in particular)
  • Positioning carbon pricing as an essential component of each country’s broader climate policy
  • Engaging a broader coalition of corporate and civil sector leaders.

To address the concerns of businesses worried about the impact of carbon pricing on competitiveness, the CPLC agreed to:

  • Increase collaboration between international carbon markets (such as the formal linking of California’s market with Ontario’s and Quebec’s) as a means of standardizing practices and prices across regions
  • Establish clear market signals about rising prices over time to increase predictability
  • Recognize the social stresses inherent in the transition to a low-carbon economy, directly engage affected communities and industries, and ensure that they are key partners in the conversation moving forward
  • Provide industries with the tools and best practices for them to effectively plan for decarbonization

For its part, ALLCOT pledges to continue engaging businesses and governments on opportunities for climate leadership, including setting an internal carbon price. Many of ALLCOT’s clients already do so by investing in carbon neutrality; CPLC suggests that the purchase of carbon offsets is akin to setting an “implicit carbon price” within a company. Companies can extend the price they use for offsets as a means of estimating their carbon impacts throughout the decision-making process for their operations and investments. This provides an opportunity for greater integration of sustainability within our clients’ business practices, and a new way for them to engage their stakeholders as national carbon regulations gain traction.

To that end, on the last day of the conference, ALLCOT participated in working sessions focused on carbon pricing for several key industries and regions – notably in the banking, maritime and higher education sectors, and in developing a harmonized approach to carbon pricing across the Americas. Inspired by the progress made in only a few short years, in collaboration with CPLC, ALLCOT will continue to help guide organizations through the roadmap to Paris and a sub-2 degree future.