When it was launched in 2003, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) became the world’s first carbon-emissions trading company, equipped to regulate all transactions made under cap-and-trade energy plans designed to restrict and tax greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by U.S. companies.
The earliest roots of CCX can be traced back to 2000, when Dr. Richard Sandor – an economist, a research professor at the Northwestern University, and the former head of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange – began to study the feasibility of initiating a cap-and-trade system in the United States. At that time, Sandor owned a firm called Environmental Financial Products (EFP). He also knew Illinois state senator Barack Obama, who, in addition to his legislative duties, was a board member of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which had long been a major donor to radical environmental groups and causes. In 2001, Obama helped steer a $347,600 Joyce Foundation grant to Sandor’s EFP. The foundation’s president, Paula DiPerna, stated that this grant was intended to “suppor[t] the design of a pilot phase for a carbon dioxide emissions trading market, called the Chicago Climate Exchange.”
In August 2001, Carlton Bartels, a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald and the chief executive officer of a company named CO2e.com, filed for a patent on the software technology that would eventually equip CCX to properly monitor the trading of residential carbon credits. But before he could secure the patent, Bartels was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. His widow subsequently located a buyer for the software technology: Franklin Raines, CEO of Fannie Mae, the mortgage-lending giant whose practice of purchasing risky mortgages from banks – and then bundling and selling them to its investors as mortgage-backed securities – would eventually send the U.S. housing market into steep decine. Raines not only oversaw that practice for six years, but he also manipulated profit-and-loss reports so as to enable himself and other Fannie Mae executives to earn gargantuan bonuses – nearly $100 million for Raines alone – even as the mortgage lender was imploding. Raines would eventually serve as the conduit through which Bartels’ software would find its way to CCX.
In November 2001, Paula DiPerna stepped down from her post as Joyce Foundation president and joined CCX, where she went on to become executive vice president in charge of corporate recruitment and public policy, as well as president of an affiliated company, CCX International.
In 2002, a second Joyce Foundation grant – for $760,100 – was used to finance the 2003 “launch” of CCX with its 14 founding members, the most prominent of which were such corporate giants as DuPont, the Ford Motor Company, and Motorola.
In November 2002, Franklin Raines and nine partners collaborated, on behalf of Fannie Mae, to apply for a patent on the software technology they had purchased from Carlton Bartels’ widow. One of those partners was former Fannie Mae vice president Scott Lesmes, who was responsible for the aforementioned mortgage-bundling scheme. Another was Robert Sahadi, also a onetime Fannie Mae VP, who now runs GreenSpace Investment Financial Services out of his 5,000-square-foot Maryland home.
The U.S. Patent and Trade office approved the patent on November 7, 2006, the day after the Democrats took control of Congress. The patented technology, which is now utilized by CCX, bundles CO2 and other GHGs in a manner similar to how Fannie Mae bundled toxic mortgages under Raines and Lesmes. The patent summary describes how carbon “and other pollutants yet to be determined” will be “combined into a single emissions pool” and traded.
Today CCX bills itself as “North America’s only cap and trade system for all six greenhouse gases” – meaning carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons. Under a cap-and-trade system, every business is assessed a tax on how much CO2 it produces (i.e., the size of its so-called “carbon footprint,” which purportedly contributes to global warming). If a company produces less CO2 than its allotted limit, it earns a Carbon Credit, which then can be traded on the CXX exchange. Meanwhile, if another company exceeds its allotted CO2 limit, it can purchase that Carbon Credit and thereby “offset” its own carbon footprint and reduce its tax liability.
CCX now has roughly 300 multinational members representing a wide array of industries such as automotive, manufacturing, chemicals, electronics, pharmaceuticals, steel, and transportation. Among the more well-known members are Bank of America, Dow Corning, DuPont, Ford Motor Company, Honeywell International, IBM, Intel Corporation, Kodak, Motorola, Safeway, and Sony.
CCX members are defined as entities that produce “direct GHG emissions” in the course of their normal business activities. These members agree to make a “legally binding emission reduction commitment” to lower their aggregate emissions by at least 6 percent over a six-year period. CCX says that in return for this, the members will be “internationally recognized as environmentally progressive leaders in their industries.”
Associate members comprise a separate classification of CCX participants; these are “office-based businesses or institutions” that “generate negligible direct emissions but do generate indirect emissions through electricity use and business travel, among other activities.” As CCX associate members, such companies “make a legally binding commitment to offset 100% of their annual indirect emissions” over a six-year period. Among CCX’s more notable associate members are the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, and the World Resources Institute.CCX global affiliates now include the European Climate Exchange, Montréal Climate Exchange, and Tianjin Climate Exchange (in China). Moreover, CCX itself has become the subsidiary of a London-based firm, Climate Exchange PLC, which also owns European Climate Exchange and is headed by CCX founder Richard Sandor.
By Sandor’s reckoning, cap-and-trade represents a $10 trillion-per-year market. Recognizing the enormous profit potential, Generation Investment Management (GIM) – a carbon-offset company whose chairman and founding partner is Al Gore – purchased a 10 percent stake in CCX and became the company’s fifth largest co-owner. In 2006, Goldman Sachs also purchased a 10 percent share of CCX.
CCX grew in its national and international influence. Stuart Eizenstat, former President Bill Clinton’s lead climate-treaty negotiator, became a director. Maurice Strong, the father of international environmentalism at the United Nations, also joined the board, bringing with him a host of top UN officials such as:
Strong had previously served as Secretary General of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and was a leading architect of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that set binding GHG-reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries. Strong has a history of insider-trading transgressions.
In 2009 an Atlanta-based group, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), bought a 4.8 percent stake in CCX. In April 2010, ICE agreed to pay $604 million for Climate Exchange PLC, the London-based operator of CCX and the European Climate Exchange.