The Australian carbon spot price ended 2019 higher, trading between $17.20-30 in January, just under a 4-year high of $17.50/t recorded in November. The price of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) has grown almost 20 per cent from a low of $14.80/t in July 2019, driven by increased demand from state governments and voluntary emissions reductions from large emitting companies.
The prospect of tighter emissions regulation may lead to a more bullish outlook for carbon prices over 2020 as expectations build for a more robust emissions policy framework. While a shift in rhetoric is easier than a shift in policy, the government has enough levers it can pull to curb emissions growth with minimal disruption, particularly via its own safeguard mechanism.
In line with earlier updates, we continue to view emissions from this segment as Australia’s climate Achilles heel, with safeguard covered emissions forecast to surpass electricity as Australia’s largest emitting segment in the early 2020s.
The key issue for policymakers will therefore be the implementation of more robust emissions limits, particularly in the energy, mining and transport sectors, where emissions continue to grow without any hard ceiling or offset mechanism.
Current carbon price represents value
Recent gains in the Australian carbon price over 2019 (up 12 per cent) have outpaced broader commodity markets, with the Standard & Poor’s Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (S&P GSCI) – comprising 24 commodities from the energy, metals, and agricultural sectors – returning 7 per cent over 2019.