European Union emissions trading scheme

Synonyms

EU ETS,

Definition

Emissions trading (or emission trading) is an administrative approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. It is sometimes called cap and trade. The idea of cap and trade system is to cap the amount of emissions that both a country and various entities within it may emit. Quotas differ between countries. Once this quota is used up no new allowances can be bought (cap) but it is possible to swap (trade) within partaking entities.

The EU ETS works on the 'cap and trade' principle. A 'cap', or limit, is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by the factories, power plants and other installations in the system. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions fall. In 2020, emissions from sectors covered by the EU ETS will be 21% lower than in 2005. By 2030, the Commission proposes, they would be 43% lower. Within the cap, companies receive or buy emission allowances which they can trade with one another as needed. They can also buy limited amounts of international credits from emission-saving projects around the world. The limit on the total number of allowances available ensures that they have a value. After each year a company must surrender enough allowances to cover all its emissions, otherwise heavy fines are imposed. If a company reduces its emissions, it can keep the spare allowances to cover its future needs or else sell them to another company that is short of allowances. The flexibility that trading brings ensures that emissions are cut where it costs least to do so. Heavy industry site By putting a price on carbon and thereby giving a financial value to each tonne of emissions saved, the EU ETS has placed climate change on the agenda of company boards and their financial departments across Europe. A sufficiently high carbon price also promotes investment in clean, low-carbon technologies. In allowing companies to buy international credits, the EU ETS also acts as a major driver of investment in clean technologies and low-carbon solutions, particularly in developing countries. (EC, 2014)