Mobility Energy and Transportation
Carbon Credit Market
21 May 2024

In the following sections, we will explore the carbon credit market and understand how it is creating an impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while helping organizations utilize their credits effectively to manage daily processes or generate cash flow.

Overview of carbon credits

Carbon credits are permits that represent 1 tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. It can be purchased by an individual or, more commonly, a company to make up for carbon dioxide emissions from industrial production, delivery vehicles or travel. Companies that have excess carbon credits can trade them to other companies which emit more carbon than the limit, to prevent the latter from legal penalties.

When formally traded, these are also known as carbon offsets which are authorizations provided to or purchased by organizations or individuals, that permit the holder to release a specific quantity of CO2. Each credit corresponds to the allowance for emitting 1 tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in alternative greenhouse gases.

Exhibit 1 shows how this system works. When a company exceeds the prescribed emissions limit, it buys credits to legally emit the excess from another company which the same below the set threshold. This exchange of credits forms the foundation of the carbon market.

Carbon credits can be traded on official carbon exchanges by countries, the UN carbon exchange platform, or on private carbon exchanges by signing up for the exchange and listing the excess credits or purchasing them. Carbon emissions are calculated using the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, a global corporate standard for carbon footprint measurement and reporting. It standardizes the measurement, management, and reporting of GHG emissions generated by a company.

The concept of carbon credits came into existence when the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) developed a carbon credit proposal to reduce worldwide carbon emissions in a 1997 agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol. The agreement set binding emission reduction targets for the countries that signed it. Since then, there have been revisions and re-evaluation of the impact of the Kyoto Protocol, as presented in Exhibit 2.

Types of carbon credits

The carbon credits market can be divided into two parts – the voluntary credits market and the compliance market. A carbon credit is considered a “voluntary carbon credit” when it is bought and retired voluntarily rather than as part of a process of compliance with legal obligations. A detailed assessment of the two is displayed in Exhibit 3.
Significance of carbon credits

Carbon credits not only work towards reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the world but may also help companies generate cash flow, as presented in Exhibit 4.
For instance, Tesla, an electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, recognized the potential revenue stream through carbon credit trading and initiated it in 2010. Tesla's carbon credits are primarily purchased by automotive giants such as General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen to offset their emissions. In FY22, Tesla amassed US$1.78B in revenue from the sale of carbon credits, constituting approximately 10% of its total revenue. This marked a 13% growth from the US$ 1.58B generated in FY21.

The compliance credit market has been established by local and central governments. Currently, there are 3 major ETS around the world, namely the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU) which contributes 80%+ of the carbon trades done in the world, the California Global Warming Solutions Act (USA) and the Chinese National Emission Trading System (China). Exhibit 5 details the market size of the total carbon credits market in 2022 and its projected size in 2028.
Critics in the voluntary market, point out that the voluntary carbon market does not lower the overall amount of greenhouse gases released by buyers. They are simply offset, which gives corporations a way to claim they are eco-friendly without reducing their overall emissions, and this concept is also termed “greenwashing.”

Carbon credits industry in India
India joined the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, and being a developing & non-annex country, ratified the convention to seek benefits from the transfer of technology and additional foreign investments when the Kyoto Protocol came into force.
Benefits to key stakeholders

The introduction of carbon credits has a threefold impact on governments, manufacturers, and renewable energy investors, as shown in Exhibit 7. The overall impact generated by carbon credits for key stakeholders is positive, as it not only enables financial benefits but also contributes to a meaningful impact on the environment, either directly or indirectly.

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