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Refinitiv carbon research

Access our flagship carbon market reports and surveys

Access our annual flagship publications providing industry insights into global carbon markets. Our annual Carbon Market Year in Review report is published in January each year and provides an overview of market developments the preceding year, and our Carbon Market Survey is published in May each year, which examines industry participants’ perceptions and expectations of market trends and developments.

Carbon Market Year in Review

Explore our annual review of carbon markets

Our annual review of carbon markets, published each year in January, present our assessment of the major global carbon markets, showcasing the main trends in global emission trading systems and areas where such systems are emerging.

We collect data from official sources – most notably carbon trading platforms such as ICE, EEX, KRX, and the Chinese carbon exchanges – and, where relevant, estimate the size of bilateral (over-the-counter) transactions, to give us an estimate of the actual volume traded.

Review of Carbon Markets: 2020

  • The total value of global carbon markets grew nearly 20% in 2020, reaching €229 billion based on our assessment of traded volume and carbon prices. That marks the fourth consecutive year of record growth and more than five times the value in 2017. The major carbon markets saw prices rising on expected tightening of emission caps. 
  • The European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) represents nearly 90% of global value and accounts for most of the record high global traded volume of 10.3 Gt. Over 8 billion emission allowances changed hands in the European carbon market in 2020, nearly 20% more than in 2019. Prices hit record highs of over €33 per tonne by the end of the year.
  • The North American regional carbon markets – the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – followed a similar pattern to Europe, with prices crashing in March/April but recovering by Q4 2020 on expectations of policy changes resulting in tighter future carbon market balances. The WCI and RGGI grew by 16% in terms of overall market value from 2019, to €22 billion and €1.7 billion, respectively. 
  • The Chinese government published long-awaited rules for China’s national ETS in Q4 2020, after President Xi Jinping’s unexpected pledge in September to step up the climate change mitigation targets of the world’s biggest emitter. We expect the first transactions in China national ETS to take place in Q2 2021.
  • Announcements of mid-century net zero targets were plentiful in 2020, the “year of ambition” of the Paris Agreement. More updates to 2030 national contributions are expected over 2021. Since carbon markets are tools to help achieve more ambitious climate targets, we foresee further increases in global carbon trading activity going forward. 

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Look back

Catch-up with our previous annual reviews of carbon markets

The Year in Review presents the traded volume and value of emission allowances. Based primarily on data from the world’s main carbon exchanges, we aggregate the numbers by segment to highlight trends in Europe, North America, China, South Korea and others smaller markets. For each market the report explains what we see as the main drivers, both in terms of environment/energy policy and of fundamental aspects of energy commodities.

Our carbon team has published an annual assessment of global carbon markets since 2006. These publications have consistently served as a reference in the world of carbon trading.

Review of Carbon Markets: 2019 overview

World emission markets grew in value in 2019, but declined in traded volumes:

  • The total value of global carbon markets grew a solid 34 percent year-on-year in 2019 on higher prices and steady traded volume. Traded volume reached 8.7 billion tonnes (Gt) of emission allowances, down 4 percent from 9.1 Gt in 2018.
  • We estimate the total value of these transactions to be in the order of €194 billion. The modest drop in volume was far outweighed by the strong rise in prices, particularly in the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), where EUAs stayed close to €25/t during the year. That was €9/t higher on average compared to the previous year.
  • The Market Stability Reserve (MSR), withholding significant amounts of EUAs, was the underlying supportive factor to the year’s elevated carbon prices, having come into effect 1 January 2019.

Carbon Market Surveys

Take a look at our Carbon Market Surveys

Every year the Carbon Market Survey takes the pulse of the major carbon markets, examining industry participants’ perceptions and expectations of market trends and developments. Tracking market sentiment for more than a decade, the Carbon Market Survey has established itself as the leading barometer of carbon markets around the world.

The Carbon Market Survey, published each year in May, collects responses from market participants and other stakeholders, ranging from emitters, traders, financial investors, developers of climate offsets for voluntary markets, service providers and various types of lobbyists. In addition to national and regional markets, it also examines international climate negotiations and ESG trends.

Refinitiv Carbon Market Survey 2021

  • More ambitious climate policy is seen as the prime price driver for European carbon: two-thirds of respondents say this is important. Next, at 61%, comes trading for financial investment (not for compliance purposes). Adjacent energy markets and weather – the traditional fundamental price drivers – are less important.
  • EU ETS seen as an ever more important driver of emission reductions in Europe: 68% of emitter respondents say it makes them reduce or plan reductions. This compares to 46% in 2020 and 58% in 2019.
  • A record-high 63% consider the EU ETS as being a decisive factor for investment decisions, compared to only 27% in 2020, and 52% in 2019.
  • 60% expect UK carbon prices to align with European levels once the UK ETS launches trading on 19 May. Half of the survey respondents expect linking between the two systems to be in place by 2025.
  • In the newly launched Chinese national ETS, only 24% of the respondents expect trading to occur within the first half of 2021, despite pressure from the government for a quick start.
  • Currently, the Chinese ETS covers only emissions from fossil power generators. Respondents see iron/steel as the top candidate for the first scope expansion, even though that sector faces particularly challenging benchmark calculations. Expectations of steel’s early inclusion might reflect a concern about EU preparations for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) that threatens to put a levy on emission intensive imports such as steel, unless these are subject to some form of carbon pricing equivalent to Europe’s.