What is Carbon Trading & How does it Work?

Global warming is affecting the Earth more viciously than expected. The alarming rate at which the glaciers are melting and the sea levels are rising threatens the mass extinction of every species on the planet.

To counter this challenge, governments around the world came together and have designed a market-based system called carbon trading, under the Paris Agreement, to control and regulate the carbon emitted by businesses, especially the ones that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

How does carbon trading work?

There are multiple models designed to facilitate carbon trading, but the recent and successful one is the Cap and Trade scheme.

Cap and Trade Scheme

In this scheme, the government sets a limit on the emission over a time period and allots a fixed number of permits to compensate for the pollution. Each carbon permit is equal to one tonne of CO2 equivalent. Therefore, companies need to track their carbon footprint to comply with the carbon trading scheme.

Businesses that effectively reduce their emissions and manage to spare some carbon credits can auction them for money. Similarly, companies who exceed their carbon emission threshold limit can purchase carbon credits from these auctions.

Carbon Offsets

Another way companies aim to compensate for their exceeding their cap limits is by buying carbon offsets in the free market. Carbon offset refers to any activity which reduces the emission of greenhouse gases elsewhere.

Usually, the sellers of these offsets are project developers who design carbon-reducing systems and technology. Hence, each ton of carbon that is avoided polluting the environment counts as one carbon offset.

Advantage of Carbon Trading

Carbon trading has collectively involved the prime polluters from the developed countries to implement technologies that reduce their emissions. As these companies are majorly dependent on fuels, they usually exceed their allotted threshold, and hence are forced to buy carbon credit from the developing nations, providing the latter with the financial aid it needs.

Carbon trading also provides the flexibility to businesses to change their operations at their own pace. For example, small businesses can easily implement the latest technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and auction the spare carbon credits. Likewise, big corporations can buy these carbon credits to compensate for excess carbon emissions.

Disadvantages of Carbon Trading

Although carbon trading has lowered the carbon emission of many businesses, the scheme is still loose-ended and can be exploited by some companies via its loopholes. As the west is adapting to the concept, there’s still a lot of room for its improvement.

Nevertheless, carbon trading schemes are a work in progress and with stricter laws and controlled demand and supply of carbon permits, the scheme can drastically help the world counter global warming