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Origins and Development of the EU ETS


The successful creation of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was not inevitable. Countries such as Canada and Japan which might be thought to have a less complex and more cohesive cultural and institutional context failed to do so. Europe succeeded for a number of reasons: with a Single Market for the economy, the logic of a single market for environment is inexorable; the European Commission—which had failed in its earlier efforts to introduce a carbon energy tax—made the case for trading with great skill and persistence, on the basis of qualified majority voting, which meant no country had a veto; the UK and Denmark initiated their own national schemes, and there was a serious risk of balkanising the market with up to 27 different schemes, with the losses of scale and scope this would entail; meeting the Union’s Kyoto commitments required a substantive pan European response, and EU ETS was the most credible and effective way of doing so. The European Parliament and Environmental Non Governmental Organisations played a constructive role, pushing for more auctioning of allowances and less of them, allocated centrally. Free allocation managed by Member States (MS) was a necessary condition to achieve the support needed, so they failed to achieve these objectives in the initial phase, but they characterize the Commission’s proposals post 2012.

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Correspondence to Frank J. Convery.

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Convery, F.J. Origins and Development of the EU ETS. Environ Resource Econ 43, 391–412 (2009).

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  • European Union Emissions Trading Scheme
  • History
  • Single market