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Greenhouse gas emissions trading schemes: A global perspective

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An overview of rules and developments in major jurisdictions globally, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the UK and the EU.

Navigating greenhouse gas emissions schemes worldwide

As global emissions trading systems undergo fundamental changes, understanding the policies and rules around them can alert you to opportunities as well as challenges.

The impacts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to be of great concern globally. Innovations have occurred in market-based solutions, technology development and international law, and there are 17 GHG emissions trading schemes that have been established globally, operating in 35 countries, 12 states and seven cities.

These trading schemes present a market-based approach to controlling GHG emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change by limiting the quantity of industrial discharges of GHGs, either through the allocation or purchase of emissions allowances from a central authority or the purchase of emissions credits from market participants. For example, a company that emits more GHGs than its permits allow can buy credits from others willing to sell them. GHG emissions credit units are often known as carbon credits or GHG emission-reduction credits.

With the 2013 – 2020 Kyoto Protocol compliance period coming to an end, meeting intended nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement has opened up new challenges, and the resulting changes are confronting GHG emissions trading globally. These changes include economic dynamics, which have lowered the value of emission-reduction credits and have affected the marketplace, potential political opposition to the policies underlying GHG emissions trading and the rise of cost-effective innovations in fnancing GHG emissions reductions.

This report offers readers an overview of the status of GHG emissions trading schemes in major jurisdictions globally, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union. It illustrates the current status of global GHG emissions trading systems and also offers insights into where the global GHG emissions trading system is headed, alerting readers to potential opportunities and challenges.


United States

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

California Coast and Pacific Ocean


Ontario and Québec lead the way in developing trading schemes.

aerial view of Toronto, Canada


Implementation of a cap-and-trade program and compliance market is expected by 2021.

Monarch butterflies

United Kingdom

EU's trading scheme framework dominates, but Brexit brings uncertainty.

Wind Electricity

European Union

The world’s biggest trading scheme sees proposals intended to stabilize the market and links to Switzerland.

Offshore Wind Platform


Tokyo Metropolitan Government's and Saitama Prefecture's schemes are connected as Japan considers a national scheme.

Japanese bamboo

The global future

Regional trading systems are expected to expand and increase their connections with one another.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Global auction statistics

Mapping emissions trading globally

The global future

2 min read

Regional trading systems are expected to expand and increase their connections with one another

Carbon pricing and trading regimes are developing regionally in a bottom-up approach, rather than through a global top-down approach as some may have anticipated. As a result of this approach, regional trading programs are expected to expand in the coming years. For example, as the Canadian Province of Ontario intends to connect its emerging greenhouse gas (GHG) trading scheme with the California and Québec regimes by 2018, in the US, Oregon and Washington State are reportedly considering similar action.

However, the lack of an overarching global trading system leaves regional systems and those entities regulated by those systems in a slightly precarious position, as demonstrated by the litigation surrounding California's regional trading system. Other regional programs, such as the Australian emissions trading system, have already been disbanded due to political changes in the region.

The force of international cooperation, even in the form of "soft law" should not be underestimated though. With COP23 coming up in November 2017, those who see emissions trading as a potential solution for carbon reduction will be eager to see the development of rules and procedures for international carbon trading.

Regulated businesses in the industrial and electricity sectors developing or acquiring power generation and other regulated stationary sources that have or are developing carbon pricing and/or trading regimes should understand the scope and limitations of emissions trading. Carbon trading systems may present operators and acquirers of regulated facilities with unique local compliance obligations, along with potential opportunities to take advantage of connections between different regional systems.

Going forward, as regional trading markets emerge, disband, change and connect with other regions, it will be important for market participants to remain aware of the legal and political developments and opportunities surrounding these issues as they develop, finance, acquire, sell and operate regulated emissions sources.



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