California RECLAIM’s market failure: Lessons for the Kyoto Protocol

Anne Egelston, Maurie J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The failure of Los Angeles' RECLAIM emission trading market in the summer of 2000 uncovers important issues that have direct relevance for the various systems now emerging for exchanging greenhouse gas credits. Two primary causes for the breakdown of RECLAIM are apparent. On the one hand, RECLAIM did not succeed because of a series of unpredictable events that included manipulation of the market by brokers and the California energy shortage. On the other hand, several potentially foreseeable program design flaws contributed to the failure. This study examines the structure of RECLAIM and concludes that there was sufficient resilience to endure the two unexpected crises. However, the problematic program design features created a market that was fatally flawed and, regardless of impinging circumstances, was ultimately bound to collapse. We also investigate the status of the rapidly developing international greenhouse gas market and identify several lessons from the RECLAIM experience: the need for a holistic approach to market design that includes the role of a bank, the interface with project-based credits, the similarities of the industries enrolled in the program, and need to carefully consider how to handle the problems caused by the end of the trading period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-442
Number of pages16
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Climate change policy
  • Emission trading
  • Environmental markets
  • Kyoto mechanisms
  • Pollution credits


Dive into the research topics of 'California RECLAIM’s market failure: Lessons for the Kyoto Protocol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this