For many years analysts have been predicting the potentially disastrous effects of a low carbon price and those fears appeared to be becoming reality last week at Carbon Expo, the annual flagship gathering of carbon market participants and assorted hangers-on. The widely-held view amongst participants was that the low carbon prices and policy uncertainty of recent years had had a strongly destabilising effect on the quality of catering and availability of free alcohol at this year’s Carbon Expo. Said one analyst, “I’ve been following this market for more than a decade and I’ve never seen lunch spreads this narrow. It’s shocking. I cooked better pasta when I was a student”. Across the room a group of listless traders sat hungrily at an empty table and reminisced of the days that even a simple dessert was provided at the world’s premier carbon market conference.
This year dessert was entirely absent – a carbon price of €6 seemingly cannot sustain even a single piece of fruit for pudding.
But several market veterans said the most telling signs of market failure was the shocking almost total absence of any free alcohol before lunch. Interviewed as he headed towards the exit, one red-nosed broker commented gruffly that “I just don’t know what’s going on. It’s nearly 1pm and nobody has yet offered me a brightly-coloured free cocktail. I’m having to go out to a bar to satisfy my craving and that is very inconvenient”.
All was not lost however, as by early on Thursday afternoon the conference recovered a glimpse of its former glory, with relieved delegates being able to escape from listening to yet another conference panel lamenting the state of the market and instead gathering around free drinks being offered at various expo stands. But which stands? As the flashy pavilions of major law firms stood eerily silent, with nothing more than a free espresso being offered, crowds gathered instead around the stands of the Peruvian and Chilean governments, who served up nationally-appropriate tipples such as Pisco Sour and Carmenere wine. How times have changed.
Carbon trading volumes were down on Friday as traders grappled with stinging hangovers caused by unexpectedly cheap wine at Thursday evening’s traditional receptions.