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Review of carbon markets in 2018

This carbon market year in review presents our assessment of the major global carbon markets in 2018, the aim being to show 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.


World emission markets grew strongly in 2018, both in volume and value.

  • Strong growth in traded volumes and price rallies in Europe and North America led to a boom year in emission trading in 2018. Volume increased 45% to 9.1 gigatonnes worth of CO2 equivalents, the highest level since 2013.
  • Thanks largely to the stellar rise in European allowance unit (EUA) prices in 2018, more than tripling from €8 to €25/t, the overall market value increased 250%, to €144 bn, and by far the highest level since the European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS) was launched in 2005. Since then the EU ETS has represented the lion’s share of global carbon trading.
  • The carbon team at Refinitiv attributes the European price rally mainly to anticipation of the Market Stability Reserve (MSR) that came into effect in January 2019. This instrument will significantly tighten the supply of emission allowances.   

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Key content

Covers main regions

Covers the main regions in which there are existing or emerging emission markets: Europe, North America, China, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia.

CDM and aviation emissions

Includes clean development mechanism (CDM) markets and developments toward the future international offset market for aviation emissions.

Market Stability Reserve (MSR)

Examines the impact of the supply-tightening measure known as MSR, and the anticipation ahead of its implementation on Jan 1, 2019.