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In June 1999, a visionary group of international companies and business associations founded IETA. Their objective was to build on the economic mechanisms created by the Kyoto Protocol in order to achieve climate objectives with minimal economic harm. 

The group included Transalta, BP, ABB, Rio Tinto, Natsource, Mitsubishi, KPMG, Norsk Hydro and Ecosecurities. The associations included the Emissions Trading Association of Australia, and the International Primary Aluminium Association. The United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) provided the first secretariat and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) provided counsel and, more practically, space for the first headquarters. The Earth Council provided strong support and impetus to the founding of IETA.

The first Chairman of IETA’s Board was Paulo Protasio, head of the Latin American Trading Association. IETA convened its first formal meeting at the International Petroleum Exchange in London. It established its legal presence in a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, near UNCTAD and WBCSD. The early days offered close proximity to what was then the Headquarters of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, before it moved to Bonn.

IETA benefitted from the success of other organisations that had gone before it. The Emissions Marketing Association (now the Environmental Markets Association) had existed for some years to support participants in the US SO2 and NOX programmes. Similarly, in the UK, the Emissions Trading Group was founded in the late 1990s as a consultative body that assisted the UK government as it put together its pioneering greenhouse gas trading system. In 2016, IETA’s From Kyoto to Paris project looked at the role these early leaders played in the carbon market’s history.

Building on these national experiences, IETA became the first international, multi-sectoral, purely business group devoted to pricing and trading greenhouse gas reductions. From the start, it had a strong focus on the Kyoto mechanisms. It helped members using, hosting and investing in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) projects, by disseminating policy and market information and promoting development and reform, over many years. IETA has been an accredited observer body for the UN climate negotiations since its earliest days – providing detailed insights to members of policy developments and potential market impacts.

When trading in greenhouse gases was little known or understood, IETA acted as a news gatherer and distributor, and assisted in developing trading clearance procedures. As the market matured, commercial entities took on these roles. IETA began focusing as a forum for policy dialogue, professional development and market readiness activities. It became and remains to this day the leading international advocacy voice for emissions markets. 

With the start of the EU Emissions Trading System in 2005, IETA established a branch in Brussels in 2007 to engage in policy and market development. As the EU market matured, IETA convened numerous forums for market participants to hone skills, develop business relationships and analyse policy impacts. IETA gained recognition for sponsoring development of the first model contracts for the EU, CDM and other markets that emerged, tapping the expertise of its wide membership.

IETA’s network extended to North America with the founding of an office in Washington, DC in 2007 and in Toronto, Canada in 2010. Driven by emerging policies at the state and provincial levels, companies in these jurisdictions sought to benefit from the global experience in carbon market solutions – and to share those experiences in the policy arena.

IETA has a proud history of convening carbon market participants. In 2004, IETA joined the World Bank and Koelnmesse in co-founding Carbon Expo, the first annual global carbon trade fair and conference. It continues today under the banner of Innovate4Climate, still the largest and most authoritative gathering of carbon market stakeholders. IETA built on this experience to co-organise regional Carbon Forums in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America. This series is conducted in partnership with the UNFCCC, other UN bodies and international and regional development banks. It offers IETA members platforms to discover new opportunities around the world.

In 2011, IETA joined forces with the International Carbon Reduction and Offsets Alliance (ICROA) in London, which represents voluntary carbon market participants. ICROA seeks to improve performance in offering voluntary market services through use of a code of conduct, against which its members are audited annually.

In 2012, IETA launched the Business Partnership for Market Readiness, with the objective of broadening business awareness of emissions trading tools and techniques in emerging markets. It has provided training to professionals in China, South Korea, Mexico, South Africa and Kazahkstan. In 2017, the initiative created a Carbon Market Readiness Training Guide to help educate the market practitioners of tomorrow.

IETA has remained true to its mission through highs and lows in market activity – and through political shifts and economic shocks. It continues to aim for excellence in harnessing market forces to deliver climate protection – to address climate challenges with market solutions.

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