22nd Oct 2016

Attacks force closure of EU's emissions trading system

  • Europe's ETS system is the largest of its kind (Photo: DerGuy82)

A series of cyber-attacks on national registries where carbon permits are stored has forced the closure of the EU's emissions trading system (ETS) for at least a week.

The European Commission posted the announcement on its website on Wednesday (19 January) after Czech Republic-based firm Blackstone Global Ventures said about €6.8 million of carbon allowances appeared to have disappeared.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Thefts on electronic registries in Austria, Greece, Poland and Estonia have also been reported in recent days.

"Incidents over the last weeks have underlined the urgent need" for enhanced security measures, the commission said while announcing the closure of the bloc's ETS system until at least the 26 January.

By placing a price on carbon, Europe's trading system is designed to lower company emissions and therefore protect the environment from global warming.

Firms received emission permits for free under the first phase (2005-2007) of the scheme, with some forced to pay for a portion of their permits under the current phase (2008-2012). Brussels wants to see energy companies buy all their permits from 2013 onwards, with other heavy industries gradually phased in by 2020.

The system is the world's largest of its kind, with US plans for a similar cap-and-trade scheme being blocked by the country's senate last year. China experts suggest pilot ETS projects could appear in Beijing's next five-year plan, set to be approved in March.

Despite its pioneering position, Europe's ETS system has attracted criticism over its six years of operation, with some businesses saying it threatens the bloc's competitiveness, while NGOs argue emission thresholds have been set too high.

Wednesday's announcement and similar cyber-attacks have also damaged the EU initiative, together with reports of tax fraud and the recycling of used credits.

"They will over time undermine the credibility of carbon trading as a policy measure," Kjersti Ulset said of the cyber-attacks. Ms Ulset is a manager at Point Carbon, a company that reports on Europe's emission trading, carried out in a network of registries across the union.

After noticing an unauthorised trade on its account on Wednesday, Blackstone contacted Czech registry OTE AS, which promptly closed operations and began an investigation.

Paris-based BlueNext SA, operator of the world's biggest spot exchange for permits, then followed suit, as did registries in Poland and Estonia before the EU imposed a region-wide shutdown.


A world without waste

A garbage crisis in Naples, Italy, gave birth to the "zero waste" movement, but is the rest of Europe brave enough to change the way it thinks about trash?

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity