It's too early to say whether a U.S. cap-and-trade system will be established, but some corporations, like The Bank of New York Mellon, are gearing up for one.

Last week the bank announced it is launching a Web-based platform that would allow customers to custody and trade carbon credits in one portfolio from around the world, including the United States.

"We believe there will be some sort of cap-and-trade in the U.S.," says Tony Nunes, managing director of global corporate trust, strategy and product management, for Bank of New York Mellon.

In fact, Congress is now debating a controversial cap-and-trade program that proponents say will cut emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHGs), including carbon dioxide, that are produced in the U.S. mainly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy. A cap-and-trade program would issue credits that would allow oil companies, electric utilities, cement producers and other businesses to emit a certain amount of GHGs. Companies that didn't have enough permits for their emissions would have to buy more. Critics say such a system would add dramatically to the cost of energy.

Nunes believes a framework for a U.S. cap-and-trade system possibly could be in place by early next year and credits issued by late 2010 or 2011. At least one regional effort in the U.S. is already under way-the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which includes 10 states in the Northeast that are implementing a cap-and-trade system for power plants.

Although some exchanges have begun to establish markets in carbon credits, The Bank of New York Mellon believes its Global Environmental Markets (GEM) platform would be the first to act as a custodian and support trading for a variety of regulated and unregulated credits, including those issued in the U.S., European Union and elsewhere. Credits now available are managed separately through various systems and spreadsheets, which can make reporting and tracking complex and time-consuming. GEM would brings registries, units and standards into one place, allowing clients a single entry point to manage all credits in their portfolio. The bank's goal is to bring together fragmented markets to provide more liquidity, facilitate trade and institute a standard security process, Nunes adds.