Skip to main content

Emissions Trading

  • Reference work entry
  • First Online:
Handbook of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation


Climate change is being exacerbated by the emissions of globe-warming greenhouse gases (GHGs) as a consequence of economic activities associated with energy, industry, transportation, and land use. From an economic viewpoint, the Earth’s climate is a public good and pollution a negative externality; such change therefore constitutes market failure. Controlling air pollution by utilizing economic mechanisms represents an important change in environmental thinking – literally a paradigm shift away from historical command-and-control engineering systems. Today, this approach is being utilized to mitigate the emissions of GHGs, addressing the pollution externality by putting a price on carbon. There are two economic approaches to implement such a price: (1) utilizing a government-imposed price-based mechanism such as a carbon tax or (2) allowing a market to reach the price associated with a quantity-based emission constraint, commonly referred to as emissions trading. Following the quantity-based approach, an international carbon market developed as a result of the Kyoto Protocol but decreased significantly after that agreement’s first commitment period ended in 2012. Today’s carbon market is once again increasing, due to higher prices in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), China’s nascent national and pilot programs, and the potential for project-based carbon credit mechanisms to offset airline emissions and help minimize compliance costs. The Paris Agreement in 2015 supports such quantity-based approaches, although trading rules for market transactions under that Agreement have not yet been fully resolved. This chapter discusses the structure of these emissions trading carbon markets, the theory behind their development, their historical evolution, ongoing governance challenges, and future prospects.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 1,399.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 1,699.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Roger Raufer .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this entry

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Raufer, R., Coussy, P., Freeman, C. (2022). Emissions Trading. In: Lackner, M., Sajjadi, B., Chen, WY. (eds) Handbook of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics