Destroy Carbon

No longer operational

Why we closed our service cancelling carbon permits from the EU Emissions Trading System

What is Carbon Destruction?

From  our launch in 2008 until 2017, Sandbag offered the public and businesses the chance to cancel emission allowances from the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Each one of these allowances is a permit to pollute one tonne of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide). The less of these allowances in circulation, the lower the total possible emissions of EU power plants and industry.

What changed in 2017?

The EU ETS has long suffered from prices too low to drive emissions cuts – because of an enormous surplus of carbon permits. Following Sandbag’s research and campaigning, by 2017 it became clear that the system was going to be reformed. The first key change was the introduction of the Market Stability Reserve (MSR), which stores some of the surplus permits away from the market. The second key change was the cancellation amendment – ensuring that some of the surplus permits in the MSR will be permanently destroyed.

What effect does individual cancellation have now?

The European Commission calculates how much the MSR removes from the market each year. This calculation discounts any cancelled allowances. Now, the more Sandbag cancels, the fewer allowances the MSR would remove from the market. Therefore, following the reform, cancelling allowances will no longer lead to 1:1 emissions reductions. 

A role for carbon offsets?

We believe everyone’s number one priority must be to take political action to get the regulation and policy needed to reduce emissions quickly and at scale. Then when we think about how we can individually lower our carbon footprint, real reductions in emissions should be prioritised over offsets of any kind. 

For unavoidable personal emissions, buying offsets can be a solution but only if they correspond to real emissions reductions.


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Sandbag is a not-for-profit (ASBL) organisation registered in Belgium under the number 0707.935.890.

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