Mikkel Larsen, chief of Singapore’s carbon bourse CIX, to resign

The sustainable finance executive had recently defended forest management carbon projects, a sector facing intense scrutiny. But he also lamented the challenges of working against such headwinds. CIX says it is searching for a new chief.

Mikkel Larsen
Mikkel Larsen, chief of CIX, has announced his intention to resign. Image: LinkedIn/ Mikkel Larsen.

The founding chief executive of Climate Impact X (CIX), a carbon exchange set up in Singapore with support from the country’s largest bank, state investor and stock exchange, has announced he intends to step down.

Mikkel Larsen, 49, will remain at the helm until a new chief is appointed, and will continue to be on the board of CIX, a company statement on Thursday said. CIX has begun a “global search” for the next CEO.

The announcement could add to the uncertainty in the carbon trading space as market players are hoping for signs of recovery this year.

Larsen said he is departing CIX, which he led for just under three years, to focus on his family. He had spent almost 10 years previously at DBS bank.

“It has been a very difficult decision to leave a company that I had the good fortune of helping to build, and that I have so much conviction in,” he said, adding that the exchange is “blessed with a team that believes in the good that carbon markets and CIX can uniquely bring”.

CIX was set up in 2021, backed by entities including DBS bank, a sustainability arm of Singapore state investor Temasek, Singapore Exchange and Standard Chartered bank. It offers spot trading of carbon credits, and also curates its own basket of nature-based projects.

The bourse facilitated transactions of over 2 million credits between March 2022 and last October. However, trading had been on a downward trend and prices had also been falling. Its “Nature X” contract of 10 forest carbon projects started trading at over US$5 per carbon credit in June 2023, but has since fallen to US$1.75 in February. In contrast, analyst S&P Global assessed nature-based avoidance carbon credits at over US$4 per piece in that month.

The corporate carbon market has been rocked by major integrity allegations since early 2023, which along with macroeconomic headwinds has caused a lasting slump, especially for the forest management sector. At a panel discussion earlier this month, Larsen spoke of the difficulties of operating in such times.

“I don’t know if there is anybody who is making a tonne of money in his market … we have a market which is quite deflated right now. I think all of us are hoping for the day when prices go back up and [trade] volume comes back in, and if you have the longevity to reach that point, you are in a good position,” he had said.

On Wednesday, he had written on LinkedIn in defence of REDD+, or forest conservation carbon projects. Preserving standing forests is “far more effective” than planting new ones, he said, though he conceded that covering costs has been a challenge.

“To add to the challenge for investors, when a REDD+ project is discovered to have flaws, we punish the project extremely harshly with discounts in market price … Ask yourself: will you stop buying clothes from your favourite brand if it was discovered that two employees had behaved poorly? I venture that you will likely not,” he wrote.

Still, CIX has appeared to do better than equivalent exchanges set up by Singapore’s neighbours. Malaysia’s Bursa Carbon Exchange and Indonesia’s IDXCarbon have both struggled since launching last year, with daily trading volumes frequently falling to zero.

CIX had onboarded finance major Mizuho as an investor last November to develop carbon trading in Japan. In December, the bourse announced plans to launch a new standardised contract for high quality carbon credits approved by industry watchdog, Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market.

“We are confident in the leadership team’s ability to drive the company forward during this transition period, and look forward to drawing upon Mikkel’s expertise in an advisory capacity as we prepare the incoming CEO for future success,” said Bill Winters, chair of CIX’s board of directors and group chief of Standard Chartered bank.

Gabrielle See contributed reporting.


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