While it is unlikely that the 113th Congress will take any action on climate change (especially not in advance of the November 2014 elections), many major public companies aren't waiting for Congressional action and are instead proactively beginning to factor internal carbon pricing into their business decisions. According to a new report issued by the CDP, 29 major companies in the United States already incorporate a carbon price into their business planning and risk management strategies. Of the 2,100 companies surveyed throughout the world, 638 companies have disclosed that regulations related to carbon pricing (cap-and-trade & carbon taxes) present opportunities for their businesses (although companies in heavy emitting countries and industries continue to report that they feel competitively disadvantaged by carbon pricing). Moreover, 500 of these surveyed companies reported that they are already regulated and price carbon through global carbon markets. Nearly a fifth of these are U.S.-based companies.
Another interesting observation that can be gleaned from the CDP report is the significant variability in the price that companies are setting per ton of carbon. For example, in North America, the price per ton ranges from $8-$80; in Europe, the price per ton ranges between $15-$324. The variability can be explained, at least in part, on the regulatory regime where those companies are operating. For example, companies operating in California are estimating carbon prices on the basis of California's cap and trade program which prices carbon at between $14-$15 per metric ton. Companies that primarily operate in Europe rely more upon Europe's Emissions Trading Scheme, although the current price per metric ton under the EU ETS (£6 per metric ton) is significantly lower than the above-referenced range so these companies are obviously projecting a higher price per ton in the future.
During last week's United Nations Climate Summit, many governments and companies also expressed support for establishing a price for carbon emissions. The World Bank identified many countries, states, provinces and cities, as well as over 1,000 businesses and investors that were in favor of carbon pricing. The CDP report noted that "[c]ompanies in the US and worldwide are already advanced in their use of carbon pricing. They are ahead of their governments in planning for climate change risks, costs and opportunities. These companies want, and are calling for, clear pricing and regulatory certainty to help them plan their climate-related investments, and they want to see more certain, internationally linked carbon markets."
Regardless of what side of the climate change debate one embraces, what is clear is that the business community has already made a decision to incorporate climate change related risks into its business strategy decision making. For those of us that represent the business community, it probably would be a good idea to get on the train or be left at the station.