Low Carbon Prices Don't Mean Cap-and-Trade Systems Are Failing

For those who think that low allowance prices mean that RGGI and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme are failing, I recommend this post last week by my friend Rob Stavins. Money quote:

"RGGI may not be particularly relevant, but it is not thereby a flawed system; surely it is not a failure.  Rather, a great environmental success has been achieved by the “fortunate coincidence” of low natural gas prices, economic recession, and mild weather.  This is hardly something to be lamented…. The low allowance prices are evidence of a success outside of the RGGI market, not evidence of failure within the RGGI market."

My lawyer’s interpretation? If the point of “cap-and-trade” is to “cap” emissions, why is the system a failure if the cap is met through other causes? We may not have high prices leading to large pots of money to fund renewable energy, but emissions are below the cap.