Emission allowances

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Commodities and emissions anatomy™

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Emissions Annex Anatomy

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Emission allowances
/ɪˈmɪʃən əˈlaʊənsɪz/ (n.)

An opportunity for regulatory arbitrage, created out of thin, hot air.[1] Notwithstanding their close connection with the commodities markets, emission allowances are not commodities, but rather a sort of play on global energy policy. In an odd way they resemble crypto, in that they are fully dependent on a collective belief (amongst the world’s governments) that climate change can, and indeed needs to, be managed by imposing financial incentives on the generation (or consumption) of carbon dioxide. Emission allowances themselves formally resemble financial instruments, though their custody and legal form are rather unique, and lawyers will get exercised about how one effectively takes security over them. You can’t for example, in Holland.

Their relationship with European regulation. It’s complicated.

You must have a taste for multi-dimensional chess if you want to understand what is required in the world of commodities, freight, weather derivatives and emission allowances. To wit:

There is some angst around weather (inadvertently or on purpose) end-users buying emissions allowances or in-scope commodity derivatives for their own purposes might be required to be authorised under MiFID 2 due to the revised definition of dealing on own account. After some scrambling around, ESMA derived a de minimis threshold test, meaning to keep those who weren’t executing customer orders and whose net exposure was under three billion annually, out of scope.

The definition of net exposure was perhaps too hastily drawn up, as it appears to reference only instruments that would be in scope for MiFID, and even then is a bit slapdash about it — commodities have a complicated relationship with MiFID, and it doesn’t make for casual cross reference — but logically it shouldn’t matter whether a contract is in or out of scope for MiFID, as long as it operates to reduce net exposure.

See also


  1. Boom boom.