The Cost of Carbon: Capital Market Effects of the Proposed Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)

Larelle Chapple*, Peter M. Clarkson, Daniel L. Gold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

263 Citations (Scopus)


In March 2008, the Australian Government announced its intention to introduce a national Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), now expected to start in 2015. This impending development provides an ideal setting to investigate the impact an ETS in Australia will have on the market valuation of Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) firms. This is the first empirical study into the pricing effects of the ETS in Australia. Primarily, we hypothesize that firm value will be negatively related to a firm's carbon intensity profile. That is, there will be a greater impact on firm value for high carbon emitters in the period prior (2007) to the introduction of the ETS, whether for reasons relating to the existence of unbooked liabilities associated with future compliance and/or abatement costs, or for reasons relating to reduced future earnings. Using a sample of 58 Australian listed firms (constrained by the current availability of emissions data) which comprise larger, more profitable and less risky listed Australian firms, we first undertake an event study focusing on five distinct information events argued to impact the probability of the proposed ETS being enacted. Here, we find direct evidence that the capital market is indeed pricing the proposed ETS. Second, using a modified version of the Ohlson () valuation model, we undertake a valuation analysis designed not only to complement the event study results, but more importantly to provide insights into the capital market's assessment of the magnitude of the economic impact of the proposed ETS as reflected in market capitalization. Here, our results show that the market assesses the most carbon intensive sample firms a market value decrement relative to other sample firms of between 7% and 10% of market capitalization. Further, based on the carbon emission profile of the sample firms we imply a 'future carbon permit price' of between AUD$17 per tonne and AUD$26 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. This study is more precise than industry reports, which set a carbon price of between AUD$15 to AUD$74 per tonne.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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