Trading scheme threatens to trap Europe in a high carbon future, says group

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the flagship policy covering half of the EU’s carbon emissions, could turn intended restrictions on pollution into a trap that commits Europe to increasing carbon emissions for much of the next decade, unless changes are swiftly introduced, warned campaign group Sandbag.

Research by the group showed that the ETS is on course to require savings of 32 million tonnes of emissions between 2008-2012.

Regulating a single power station over the same period could have had a greater impact, said the group.

The problem is a severe over allocation of pollution permits, claimed Sandbag.

The recession caused a sharp drop in production and therefore carbon emissions but Sandbag believed that these lower emissions could trap the EU into a continued high carbon economy because the ETS allows the huge volume of unused permits to be carried over into the next phase of the scheme that runs from 2013-2020.

These permits would then be available for companies as the economy picks up again, removing a key driver for investment in low carbon options.

“The ETS in its current form, though a very powerful and effective policy in principle, is in danger of actually hindering a low carbon economy for years to come,” claimed the group's website.

To remedy the situation Sandbag recommended increasing the EU carbon reduction target from 20% to 30% by 2020 and setting stricter caps for the next phase of the scheme.

“The recession has rendered the ETS caps thoroughly obsolete,” says Sandbag campaigner Damien Morris. “Unless they are adjusted to reflect our new circumstances, the EU ETS risks becoming an albatross around the neck of European climate policy, a carbon trap rather than a carbon cap.”