European Union emissions trading scheme




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)

Wikipedia definition:

The European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), also known as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, was the first large greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world, and remains the biggest. It was launched in 2005 to fight Global warming and is a major pillar of EU climate policy. As of 2013, the EU ETS covers more than 11,000 factories, power stations, and other installations with a net heat excess of 20 MW in 31 countries—all 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein. The installations regulated by the EU ETS are collectively responsible in 2008 for close to half of the EU's anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and 40% of its total greenhouse gas emissions. Under the 'cap and trade' principle, a maximum (cap) is set on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by all participating installations. 'Allowances' for emissions are then auctioned off or allocated for free, and can subsequently be traded. Installations must monitor and report their CO2 emissions, ensuring they hand in enough allowances to the authorities to cover their emissions. If emission exceeds what is permitted by its allowances, an installation must purchase allowances from others. Conversely, if an installation has performed well at reducing its emissions, it can sell its leftover credits. This allows the system to find the most cost-effective ways of reducing emissions without significant government intervention. The scheme has been divided into a number of "trading periods". The first ETS trading period lasted three years, from January 2005 to December 2007. The second trading period ran from January 2008 until December 2012, coinciding with the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The third trading period began in January 2013 and will span until December 2020. Compared to 2005, when the EU ETS was first implemented, the proposed caps for 2020 represents a 21% reduction of greenhouse gases. This target has been reached 6 years early as emissions in the ETS fell to 1812 mln tonnes in 2014. The EU ETS has seen a number of significant changes, with the first trading period described as a 'learning by doing' phase. Phase III sees a turn to auctioning a majority of permits rather than allocating freely; harmonisation of rules for the remaining allocations; and the inclusion of other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbons. In 2012, the EU ETS was also extended to the airline industry, though this has been paused for one year given the possibility of a global system for these emissions. The price of EU ETS carbon credits has been lower than intended, with a large surplus of allowances, in part because of the impact of the recent economic crisis on demand. In 2012, the Commission said it would delay the auctioning of some allowances. Currently legislation is under way which would introduce a Market Stability Reserve to the EU ETS that adjusts the annual supply of CO2 permits based on the CO2 permits in circulation. Overall, since its conception, the EU ETS has been characterized by relatively high levels of policy uncertainty. This uncertainty has been both technical, in terms of its detailed rules and procedures, and political, in terms of its public, industry, and governmental support. As a result, the scheme has resulted in a rather informal and tepid response by regulated organizations.

Source: Wikipedia - European Union Emission Trading Scheme