29th Sep 2021

EU states gave too many pollution permits, say environment groups

EU member states have polluted less in 2005 than first anticipated, new data shows from the EU's emissions trading exchange scheme - the bloc's main tool for hitting the Kyoto targets on climate change - but some say levels were highly over-estimated in the first place.

It is the first time the total EU numbers for pollution have been released after the EU's flagship plan to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fight global warming was first launched in January 2005.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The fact that the emissions ... are lower than expected is in principle good news for us and for the environment," said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

"We are now studying the reasons why there seems to be either an over-allocation or much less emissions than we had anticipated," she said.

'EU governments are to blame'

Environmental groups on Monday accused EU governments of being guilty of allowing their industries to produce as much carbon dioxide as they wish at no cost.

"European governments have blatantly ignored the aims behind the [emission trading scheme] and abused the trading scheme under pressure from their dirty industries," said Matthias Duwe, European head of the Climate Action Network.

"This stalls the EU's flagship climate policy. Governments need to grab control of the wheel and steer a clear path to emission reductions," he said in a statement.

Figures released on Monday (15 May) showed a 2.5 per cent surplus for 2005, with 16 EU governments granting 44.1 million tons more CO2 emission permits than needed, despite five governments - UK, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Austria - spending more than allocated.

Four countries, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta and Poland have still not put the emission trading scheme into place.

Price fluctuations

Prices on the carbon trading market have fluctuated heavily in recent weeks following announcements that some EU member states had polluted less than expected leading to fears that the EU climate exchange would crash.

Prices plummeted in April after four member states announced they had polluted less in 2005 than the ceiling set by the EU, leaving the market with more credits.

The price of emitting one tonne of CO2 was at its peak in mid-April at €30 but fell almost 63 per cent to about €11.

The carbon trading market was volatile on Monday morning after the commission published the verified CO2 data when emission permits traded within a six-euro-range. The price had stabilised to just below €13 early by Monday afternoon.


Henrik Hasselknippe, senior analyst at a carbon consultancy, Point Carbon, said it was too early to say whether the lower than expected amount of emission permits used was due to over-allocation or actual emission reductions in member states.

"It's likely to be a bit of both", he said and added that today's data needed to be analysed before anyone could be absolutely sure.

The idea of the climate exchange was to raise the costs for the large energy consuming industry of polluting, while creating a market to provide an incentive to become more environmentally efficient.

EU tries to stop C02 credits market crash

The European Commission has asked member states not to announce what they have polluted in 2005 until the deadline of 15 May, in an attempt to calm the bloc's greenhouse gas emission trading market.

Market reacts strongly to low EU carbon emissions

European carbon prices fell sharply on Thursday after member states announced they had polluted less in 2005 than the allowed targets set by the Union's emission trading scheme.

EU states spoiling emissions trading scheme, WWF says

The EU's carbon trading scheme may fail to achieve its goal of cutting greenhouse gasses from Europe's heavy industry unless the European Commission clamps down on the member states' weak allocation plans, warns the environment group WWF.

News in Brief

  1. Navalny to get EU human-rights prize
  2. Nato patrols Kosovo-Serbia border as tensions soar
  3. EU lorry drivers will not help UK
  4. Dutch PM gets extra security on bike commute to work
  5. Berliners vote to expropriate corporate landlord apartments
  6. Polish minister calls for border state-of-emergency extension
  7. More Polish regions bin anti-gay declarations
  8. Russia bypasses Ukraine to ship EU gas via Turkey


An economist on 'elephant-in-room' at German election

Economist Shahin Vallée says Germany has the resposability to lead the European debate on fiscal reforms in the face of the climate crisis. If they don't take up the mantle, the EU will continue failing during further crises.


Afghan withdrawal may spark ex-forces terrorism in Europe

Right-wing extremist narratives thrive on the US's swift withdrawal from Afghanistan. They may gain traction particularly among soldiers and veterans of Western armed forces, some of which have in the past been confronted with right-wing radicalisation among their troops.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. Panama to stay on EU tax-haven blacklist
  2. Moldova to EU: Help us go after fugitives
  3. Election means three-party German government likely
  4. Lagarde urges EU to use market power to fix gas price
  5. MEPs 'disappointed' at observer-status at new EU health body
  6. An economist on 'elephant-in-room' at German election
  7. Afghan withdrawal may spark ex-forces terrorism in Europe
  8. Book Club: The Last Bluff

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us