**Environmental campaigners were given fresh cause for alarm this week by a slew of new annual figures published on the EU carbon market. Campaigners were not only confronted with news of the worsening environmental performance of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), but were also faced with a stark reduction in data released by the European Commission that threatens to hamstring their future advocacy efforts.**
The new data shows that as of 2013 the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which is supposed to limit the greenhouse gas emission of all of Europe’s power stations and factories, is oversupplied by 2.1 billion carbon allowances. With total 2013 emissions under the ETS at 1.9 billion tonnes, this leaves over a year’s worth of spare allowances flooding the market. The surfeit of allowances has lowered the price of carbon to the region of €5 per tonne of CO2 emitted, too low to drive even the cheapest known forms of emission reduction. This has left many of Europe’s gas-fired power stations idling, because the price of CO2 can no longer bridge the price differential between coal and gas.
The main cause of this oversupply in the EU ETS has been a reduced demand for carbon allowances after the recession, which has caused emissions to fall much lower than had been expected when the supply of allowances was fixed. But this problem has been severely compounded by companies submitting huge quantities of carbon offsets into the scheme: the new data shows that offsets now make up 1.2 billion – more than half – of the current surplus.
Civil society groups have had persistent concerns about the level of offsetting taking place within the scheme, with serious environmental and human rights issues attached to specific project types. But their ongoing efforts will face a serious barrier as the Commission plans to stop publishing data on the volume and type of offsets surrendered by companies operating in the scheme.
After failing to publish this offsetting data on May 2nd, the Commission made a partial concession to environmental groups and on May 14th published a breakdown of the types of offsets released into the scheme as a whole, but campaigners argue that this still leaves companies dangerously unaccountable.
**Damien Morris, Head of Policy at the Sandbag Climate Campaign** says:
_“The Commission has just given a huge gift to those industry lobbyists who routinely exaggerate the costs the EU ETS poses to them. By concealing the number of offsets companies have submitted to comply with the scheme, they have made it much harder to estimate the real costs these companies have faced in the past or are likely to face in the future. We call on the Commission to make the full data available as soon as possible.”_
In parallel, campaigners argue that the loss of information on the types of offsets surrendered into the scheme, discourages ethical companies from differentiating themselves by purchasing credits from more responsible sources.
**Eva Filzmoser, Director at Carbon Market Watch** says:
_“In the absence of clear rules for companies to stay away from dubious projects that are tainted by human right abuses, we need transparency in order to hold companies accountable for their investment decisions.”_
Campaigners have a strong grounds for demanding this data, which was instrumental in their campaign to ban the most disreputable offsets from the scheme – those arising from industrial gas destruction. Offset use dropped by 75% in 2013 after this ban came into effect.