11 Mar 2014

Carbon Leakage: Options for the EU

Andrei Marcu / Christian Egenhofer / Susanna Roth / Wijnand Stoefs

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This CEPS Special Report builds on the first deliverable of the project entitled “Carbon leakage: Options for the EU”. It identifies carbon costs, and the ability to pass through carbon costs, as the main risk factors that could lead from asymmetrical carbon policies to carbon leakage. It also outlines and evaluates, based on criteria discussed in the paper, options for detecting and mitigating the risk of carbon leakage in three jurisdictions, with special attention to the EU ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme).

Based on the analysis of approaches currently used in a number of existing carbon pricing systems, it identifies the balance between the number of sectors identified as being at risk, and the amount of compensation provided as a risk mitigation measure, as the critical element in providing an optimum approach to address carbon leakage risks. It also identifies a risk-based approach to identifying sectors at risk as allowing for a better reflection of reality in a counterfactual argument. Finally, the paper concludes that while, with some exceptions, there has been limited carbon leakage until now, the past may not be a good reflection of the future and that measures need to be put in place for the post-2020 period.

While examining a number of approaches, it identifies free allocation as the most likely way forward for mitigating the risk of carbon leakage. While other approaches may provide interesting options, they also present challenges for implementation, from a market functioning, to international trade and relations, points of view. A number of challenges will need to be addressed in the post-2020 period, with many of them part of the EU ETS structural reform package. Some of these challenges include, among others, the need to recognise, and provide for individual sectoral characteristics, as well as for changes in production patterns, due to economic cycles, and other factors. Finally, the paper emphasises the need for an open dialogue regarding the post-2020 provisions for carbon leakage as no overall Energy and Climate Package is likely to be agreed on until this matter is addressed.

Andrei Marcu is Project Leader, Senior Advisor and Head of the CEPS Carbon Market Forum; Christian Egenhofer is Associate Senior Fellow at CEPS; Susanna Roth is Visiting Mistra Fellow at CEPS and Wijnand Stoefs is Research Assistant at the CEPS Carbon Market Forum.