After monetary policy, climate policy: is delegation the key to EU ETS reform?
C. Flachsland and
Climate Policy, 2016, vol. 16, issue 1, 1-25
Since the crash of carbon prices in phase II of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), many have argued that the low price mirrors structural failures requiring intervention. A wide range of reform options have been suggested, including delegating the governance of the carbon market to an independent authority. This article analyses the debate by reconstructing the various arguments for or against reform. Three possible drivers of the price decline are investigated: (1) exogenous shocks; (2) insufficient credibility; and (3) market imperfections. It is argued that the extent to which a low price is problematic and warrants reform depends on the specific objectives associated with the EU ETS and the perception on the functioning of the market. A two-dimensional EU ETS Reform Space, comprising the degree of price certainty within the EU ETS and the level of delegation, is devised. Within the Reform Space, EU ETS reform options currently discussed are mapped. This descriptive structure offers a framework to clarify whether delegation responds to various concerns with respect to the EU ETS. Delegation might enhance flexibility under unforeseen circumstances, decrease policy uncertainty, and increase the credibility of long-term policy commitments. However, higher degrees of delegation face challenges including democratic legitimacy and political feasibility. Policy relevance In January 2014, the European Commission proposed a structural reform of the EU ETS characterized by a quantity triggered Market Stability Reserve, increasing flexibility in allowance supply. However, intense debate has revealed considerable differences in opinion regarding the need for and objectives of any adjustment mechanism. Other proposals, including various degrees of delegation to a rule-based adjustment mechanism or an independent authority as well as degrees of price certainty, were also suggested. This article offers a new framework, the EU ETS Reform Space, to compare reform options more systematically. This work therefore contributes to structuring the policy debate by providing a tool to better understand the merits and demerits of various reform proposals
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