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Carbon emissions trade gathers pace in Europe

Carbon emissions trade gathers pace in Europe
LONDON - European carbon dioxide emissions trade is taking off as companies gear up for the January launch of European Union-wide rules to curb greenhouse gas pollution, analysts and brokers said.

Trade picked up in summer once Brussels started approving countries' plans for setting carbon dioxide (CO2) emission limits for industrial sites, ending uncertainty about the amount of quotas available.

"Now we are seeing up to 100,000 tonnes trade a day. Six months ago we were lucky to see 100,000 tonnes in a month," said James Emanuel, a director at broker Evolution Markets.

The EU scheme, a key part of the bloc's efforts to meet commitments under the Kyoto climate change protocol, will create the world's first international market in carbon emissions.

Sites which exceed their pollution targets will have to buy extra quotas from companies that undershoot their goals.

According to analysts Point Carbon, at least 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 has traded over-the-counter in October compared with 1.3 million tonnes in September and 180,000 tonnes in the whole of the first quarter.

Although the growth in trade is steep, volumes are still small compared with total EU CO2 emissions. For example, a typical coal-fired power station has 3.5 million tonnes of carbon allowances a year.

"Across the whole of Europe, a million tonnes is not very much," a trader at a UK electricity generator said.

"We would hope next year when people have figured out their positions, we might start to see volumes pick up properly."


Four European energy bourses, including London's IPE and Germany's European Energy Exchange, have plans to launch carbon contracts in coming months. Most trade is being done by Western European utilities and energy companies which are used to dealing in commodities, said Henrik Hasselknippe, a senior analyst at Point Carbon.

"The geography has been skewed - we have many companies in west Europe which are used to trading and risk management," he said.

"But there are some big companies in east and central Europe, for example big state-run power producers, which are not used to these markets."

The most active firms include Shell (RD.AS: Quote, Profile, Research) (SHEL.L: Quote, Profile, Research) , BP (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and German utility RWE (RWEG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) , he said.

Banks are also looking at the market but few have become very involved in trading, analysts said.

One of the most active is said to be Dutch-Belgian financial services group Fortis.

Story by Margaret Orgill

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