After the launch of S&P GSCI Global Voluntary Carbon Liquidity Weighted, the first-to-market benchmark that seeks to track the current performance of global voluntary carbon futures markets, we thought it would be wise to go into further detail regarding the two main types of carbon commodity markets. These two markets are similar in that the most basic underlying component is one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, but diving deeper, these two markets are strikingly different. The first significant difference is the price performance and history (see Exhibit 1). The much more established compliance markets have a number of years of available history, while the voluntary carbon markets are some of the newest commodity markets, with some contracts having only one year or less of trading history.
The carbon futures markets offer new alternative investment vehicles with robust potential interest across many different market participants. Physical carbon spot markets allow for direct carbon offsetting, while the development of futures markets encourages financial market participants to enter, increasing liquidity. Within the compliance carbon markets space, the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) has been at the forefront, while the CME has led the charge in voluntary carbon markets. Recent news of exchanges, particularly in Asia, looking to enter or expand offerings in the carbon markets will likely enhance these new commodities’ price discovery and liquidity. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) was the latest to target voluntary carbon market trading, while Singapore Exchange backed a new carbon-focused trading venue.
What exactly are the differences between the two main types of carbon markets? Voluntary carbon markets differ from government-mandated compliance markets in several ways. Exhibit 2 breaks down the differences between both types of carbon markets. One main takeaway is that voluntary carbon markets are not fungible or interchangeable. Every individual project underlying the offset is unique, requiring the verification and validation mechanism. Compliance markets, which are much more established, simply permit an entity to emit 1 ton of CO2 equivalent and tend to be geographically based.
Carbon markets are a crucial piece of the energy transition puzzle needed to lessen the global economy’s reliance on fossil fuels to combat climate change. Many corporations and governments are stepping up to the challenge and reiterating their support for this colossal global effort to lessen the future catastrophic effects of climate change. The world will likely rely on carbon markets for efficiency and transparency in order to save the planet. These carbon markets are nascent and will surely grow as the world evolves. S&P Dow Jones Indices will be there to offer indices like the recent S&P GSCI Global Voluntary Carbon Liquidity Weighted to ensure benchmarks are available and designed to evolve as the market evolves. With the ability to add futures contracts from new exchanges and new offerings from current exchange partners, SPDJI is uniquely positioned to be the world leader in carbon markets. For more information, visit our Commodities Investment Theme Page and check out our sister company’s, S&P Global Commodity Insights, Energy Transition Resources.The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.