Allowance Theft Freezes EU Carbon Spot Market

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday said it was waiting for member countries to confirm that minimum-security requirements had been installed in their emissions registries before reactivating its emissions trading scheme (ETS). The European Commission halted spot carbon trading last week for at least seven days after hackers stole emission permits from accounts in the Czech Republic and Austria.

The commission froze trading in the ETS last Thursday following a “series of cyber attacks” that resulted in the “concerted” theft of roughly 2 million allowances—representing a total of less than 0.02% of allowances in circulation. The attacks had taken place since the beginning of the year, the commission said, which also noted that 14 registries were vulnerable to similar attacks.

The ETS, which began in 2005 and has frequently been cited as a model for proposed cap-and-trade plans, covers the 27 EU nations as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

The allowances stolen were worth about €30 million. Valued at €14.48 each, the 2 million allowances would be worth about $39.4 million based on recent trading.

CNET quoted the Czech Republic registry as saying that a total of 1.3 million permits were missing from six accounts and that the digital assets were transferred to accounts in Poland, Italy, Estonia, Lichtenstein, and Germany, and possibly other countries.

The commission was hopeful that carbon trading could resume today, but Reuters has reported that EU emissions exchanges were unlikely to resume spot carbon trading this week. The much-larger futures market was not affected, the commission said.

The ETS has been plagued by a series of scandals in recent months. The latest attack follows a multibillion-euro VAT (value-added tax)  fraud, a phishing scam that resulted in the theft of 250,000 allowances from Germany, and a scam involving the resale of used carbon credits.

Sources: European Commission, Reuters, CNET, POWERnews

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