Carbon finance seen as solid despite global crunch

Carbon finance has escaped a hit from the global credit jitters but regulators must act fast to speed up project delays to maintain the momentum to combat climate change, World Bank and industry officials said.

The carbon market's value has grown to $50 billion in the first six months of this year, similar to 2007, and is expected to double this year.

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"It is reasonable to expect the overall market to touch $100 billion by end of 2008," Karan Capoor from the World Bank's Carbon & Environmental Finance said.

Growth has been strong in the European Union's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as well as in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a scheme which enables developing countries to get credits for reducing emissions, he told a conference.

But he warned that although the global financial crisis had little impact on the carbon market, project delays could be painful for the industry.

"There is no evidence of any major impact of the financial crisis on carbon market. The delays have nothing to do with the financial crisis, more to do with regulatory delays as the CDM has many more project applications than expected and the regulatory infrastructure is not fully geared to handle this high level of interest," said Capoor.

"We don't need self-inflicted wounds; the process is not working as well as it ought to and project delays are leading to reduction of revenues," he said.

Some 63 percent of projects are under review he said, urging regulators in every country to act with urgency.

"Project delays knock off 40 percent of credits. We need smart regulation to maintain market sentiment," he said, adding that the regulatory framework needs to gear up if carbon markets are to become a significant tool to combat climate change.

There has been at least $10-15 billion committed to carbon projects in the last two years with banks providing liquidity.

"Fortunately the carbon market has not been affected much due to the financial crisis, which is good for the market," said Kostas Nikolopoulos at Climate Change Capital, a London-based private investment firm.

"Carbon finance is here to stay, it is a new asset class and carbon prices are affected less than most asset classes."

(Reporting by Stanley Carvalho)

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