Looking back on Carbon Expo 2016

June 02, 2016

This year’s Carbon Expo provided an excellent opportunity for our team, featuring one Expo veteran and two newcomers, to strengthen relationships with a number of partners from across the sector. Much attention has been placed on the Expo’s declining attendances during recent years, however the EEM team found that the 13th edition – hosted at Koelnmesse in Cologne – brought together a passionate, diverse crowd of delegates, with the majority of plenaries, workshops and side-events well-attended and seeing active engagement.

Given the status of the carbon market, it was no surprise to find an increasing amount of attention on the voluntary market and the potential for new regional and sectoral compliance schemes to absorb excess supply of both voluntary and compliance standards. Workshop topics spanned analysis of recent policy developments – not least the Paris Agreement – as well as sessions on the linking of carbon markets, increasing engagement on co-benefits and spurring greater engagement from the private sector. Our CEO, Adrian Rimmer, joined the panel for a session titled “From Niche to Mainstream – Bringing Jurisdictional REDD+ Offsets to Market”. Between them the panel covered a variety of perspectives on this highly relevant topic. Amidst lively debate, the panel found agreement on the importance of advocating for project-level best practice in the design of jurisdictional projects, warning against jurisdictions attempting to “start from scratch” when looking for methods to develop the market for REDD+ offsets. Hopes for growth in demand remain centred on the development of a market-based mechanism for the aviation sector (see below) and on the use of REDD+ credits as a support tool to complement ambitious decarbonisation targets in other industries, such as the auto sector. In the former case, the potential eligibility of REDD+ credits within such a scheme remains a distinct possibility, an outcome that would severely impact those anticipating aviation-led growth in demand and one for which the panel agreed International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has no obvious plan B.

Much discussion, both inside and outside of the conference hall, concerned ICAO’s forthcoming resolution on the structure of a global market-based mechanism (GMBM) intended to help the aviation sector meet its goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onward. Those we spoke with were broadly confident that a deal will be reached by the September deadline, however, despite there being consensus that ICAO has “no plan B”, uncertainty remains as to the ambition and detail of that agreement. Voluntary market participants remain steadfast that ICAO should build upon the existing market infrastructure and project pipeline. This sentiment echoes the CMIA’s recent conclusion that after more than 10 years’ global experience of implementing carbon markets, there is no “learning by doing required” for a successful launch of the scheme and that if a pilot scheme (no pun intended) is desired, this should take place as soon as possible to ensure that a “live” compliance scheme for aviation is implemented in a timely manner.

As the state of the voluntary carbon market revealed, businesses have increased their demand for voluntary carbon and the level of commitments to new multilateral initiatives such as Science-Based targets suggests this trend is set to continue through 2016. Nonetheless, growth in demand continues to be offset (again, no pun intended) by falling prices and EEM noted a considerate amount of energy, both formal and informal, being dedicated toward the question of how to boost the value of voluntary carbon though the communication of co-benefits. Toward this end, communication of voluntary offsetting is changing to articulate its relative value as investment in pro-active climate action AND development to align with corporate social responsibility goals, evolving beyond the basic commodity of carbon. EEM particularly enjoyed the contributions of Sarah Leugers of the Gold Standard and look forward to following the development of their own communications strategy through the rest of 2016 and beyond.

The whole team would like to thank the Carbon Expo organisers from IETA and the World Bank. For the newcomers in our team, this year’s Expo proved to be a valuable opportunity to meet many people whose passion is driving the development and growth of climate development projects. We’re looking forward to following up on opportunities and doing everything we can to grow demand. For those who didn’t manage to catch us at this year’s event, we would be delighted to speak or host you at our London office. You can also meet EEM at the following events:

9th June – London: Financial Times / IFC Transformational Business Awards & Conference
23rd June – London: Climate Markets and Investment Association (CMIA) AGM, (please contact info@cmia.net if you would like to attend)
13th July – London: Environmental Finance’s Forest Finance & Sustainability Conference
24th/25th August – Oslo: Montel’s Nordic Energy Days