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Carbon Market

Australia's cap-and-trade: boon or burden?

Australia has plans to lead the carbon financing market but may just be brushed aside due to China’s and Singapore’s more aggressive and politically-stable strategies.

With Singapore poised to have a carbon credit market before yearend along with Beijing and Hong Kong, Australia might lose its bid to be the Asia-Pacific’s carbon market hub, indicating that its bold and hotly debated move to have the first cap-and-trade scheme may just collapse.

Sydney said in January it has plans to lead the carbon financing market, but Massachusetts-based Financial Solutions says the city may just be brushed aside. Other Asian cities are reportedly gearing up to claim this title as well.

Singapore, Asia’s biggest oil-trading center, has the Financial Technologies Group, an Indian financial services company, planning to set up the Singapore Mercantile Exchange since 2008. It will act as a platform for trading precious metals, base metals, energy, agricultural commodities, currency pairs and carbon credits.

The country is also planning to utilize Clean Development Mechanism (C.D.M.) projects in and around China, the main source of Certified Emission Reduction certificates that can be used as carbon credits for trading.
At the same year, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has hired consultants to look at the possibility of including carbon emissions trading. Forbes reported that the exchange’s board is planning to “focus on environmental and greenhouse gases markets” through initial public offerings, exchange traded funds and index-linked products.

The future is as bright for China, currently the world’s second top greenhouse emitter. In 2007, Beijing invested $1.7 million to develop a carbon finance project. The United Nations Development Programme, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and China International Centre of Economic and Technical Exchange have teamed-up for the effort. Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel producer, has also pledged to provide financial support.

According to the World Bank’s Carbon Finance, China holds the lion’s share of the world’s C.D.M. projects with 73 percent. The seven-year deal between Jiangsu’s Myland Group and the World Bank alone brings more than 330 million euros ($443.6 million) at a price of 6 euros per ton of carbon dioxide, reported the China Daily.

The operator of world's largest carbon market, European Climate Exchange, is not particularly enthusiastic about Australia’s. The Australian Securities Exchange can reportedly develop into a $10 billion carbon market, but the European Exchange is hesitant to help it expand, saying that the contested Australian carbon-trading scheme are dividing local lawmakers.

"There's no point in even thinking about it until the politicians make a decision," Patrick Birley, chief executive of London-based ECX, told Reuters about their shelved plans for Australia.

-    Oliver M. Bayani



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