United States: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Schemes: A Global Perspective

Last Updated: January 11 2018
Article by Seth Kerschner

Individual states are expected to take the lead in regulating greenhouse gas emissions

Stay current on your favorite topics

In the US, the trading of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-reduction credits is underway in a large group of states on the East Coast and in California. In the northeast US, New England states and a group of Mid-Atlantic states joined together to set up a carbon dioxide (CO2) cap-and-trade regime that covers CO2 emissions from power plants in those states. On the West Coast, California's broader trading regime, which covers a wide range of GHGs from a variety of California emitters, is looking to expand to markets outside of the state.

On the federal level however, signs are pointing to lighter regulation of GHG emissions. This results from a combination of factors, including the actions of the Trump administration and pending legal challenges to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's plans for regulation of GHG emissions. Therefore, individual states—rather than the federal government—are expected to take the lead with the development of GHG emissions regulation over the next four years.

The trading of greenhouse gas emission reduction credits is underway in a large group of states on the East Coast and in California.

NEW ENGLAND, NEW YORK, MARYLAND AND DELAWARE

The nine states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont jointly operate a regional CO2 cap-and-trade system known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This system was the frst US mandatory cap-and-trade program for GHG emissions.

What is covered

The RGGI trading scheme, which became effective in 2009, applies only to CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fred power plants with capacities to generate 25 MWs or more in the nine RGGI states. The RGGI system is therefore narrower than some other regional GHG emissions trading systems that cover GHGs other than CO2 and that apply to emitters other than power plants.

What is required

RGGI applies to emissions reductions within a regional framework, consistent with how the power system in the US operates. Together, the RGGI states set a cap for total emissions of CO2 from covered power plants in the region. Each state implements the program through emissions caps in individual RGGI-participating states that are equal to shares of the region-wide cap. The RGGI cap declines over time, gradually tightening emissions limits. Covered power plants in participating states must obtain an allowance for each ton of CO2 emitted annually (RGGI auctions allowances, rather than allocating them for free). Power plants within the region may comply by purchasing allowances at quarterly auctions, purchasing allowances from other generators within the region that have excess allowances or supporting offset projects. RGGI administered its frst auction of CO2 allowances in 2008.

Future outlook

By 2020, the RGGI CO2 cap is projected to contribute to a 45 percent reduction in the region's annual power-sector CO2 emissions from 2005 levels. The RGGI states recently proposed changes to the program after 2020, whereby the region's CO2 cap would decline by 2.275 million tons of CO2 per year after 2021, resulting in a reduction in the regional CO2 cap by 30 percent relative to 2020 levels through 2030. The RGGI states will host a public meeting on this proposal on September 25, 2017. Although Virginia is not an RGGI member, its governor recently directed environmental regulators in that state to cap power plant GHG emissions in Virginia and establish a GHG emissions trading system in the state where credits can be used in, and traded across, similar trading systems in other states. This could potentially include RGGI states. Whether Virginia establishes its trading connection with its East Coast RGGI neighbors or California's regional trading system remains to be seen. Additionally, both major political party gubernatorial candidates competing in New Jersey's upcoming election favor New Jersey's return to RGGI. New Jersey's current governor pulled the state out of the program in 2011.

CALIFORNIA

The State of California operates one of the most active GHG trading markets in the world, covering a signifcant portion of the state's economy. California's program is second in size to the European Union's Emissions Trading System. The California cap-and-trade rules came into effect in 2013.

What is covered

Following a 2015 expansion, California's GHG trading scheme applies to power plants and industrial facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of Co2-equivalent, and fuel distributors that meet the 25,000 metric ton threshold. The covered emissions include weighted equivalent values of methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons and nitrogen trifluoride, along with Co2. This makes the California cap-and-trade system broader than the East Coast's RGGI system because the California system covers emitters other than power plants and GHGs other than CO2.

What is required

Covered emitters in California must hold enough emissions allowances to cover their emissions, and are free to buy and sell allowances on the open market. Under the California program, some allowances are auctioned, while others are allocated or given away for free. Covered entities in California can also use offsets rather than allowances to cover a limited percentage of their emissions limits. The percentage of free allowances allocated to emitters has been reduced over time.

Future outlook

California's cap-and-trade program is one element of the state's larger climate change initiative, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which aims to reduce the state's GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. On July 25, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation extending the state's GHG trading program through 2030. Notably, the extension law includes price ceilings and floors and new limits on the use of offsets. Furthermore, it prohibits local air districts from imposing additional limits on CO2 emissions from facilities subject to the cap-and-trade rules.

California's GHG cap-and-trade system also recently overcame a legal challenge in court. A split panel of judges in California's Third District Court of Appeals recently upheld the program, rejected claims that the state's auction revenues equate to an unconstitutional tax, and instead found that the costs of buying or selling emissions allowances are property rights that can be traded. Had the court found the revenues to be taxes, the system would have been invalidated because tax increases must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the state Legislature, and the program did not have that level of support when it passed. The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of this decision.

Connections

California's cap-and-trade system is connected to a similar carbon reduction scheme in Québec, Canada, which is discussed in the Canada section on page 4. This connection represents the first multi-sector cap-and-trade program connection in North America. Under it, allowances can be traded across jurisdictions. Ontario plans to join the program by next year as well.

Nevertheless, some environmental non-governmental organizations oppose cross-border trading system connections because of their belief that GHG emissions reductions should occur directly at the source of the emissions, rather than outside of the jurisdiction where the source is located.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

    Disclaimer

    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

    Registration

    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

    Cookies

    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

    Links

    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

    Mail-A-Friend

    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

    Emails

    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

    Security

    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions