European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Background

Since 2005, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has helped lower greenhouse gas emissions throughout Europe.

Cap & Trade

The EU ETS was launched in 2005 in order to help tackle climate change. It sets a Europe-wide annual cap on CO2 emissions which reduces each year.  From 2005-2019 the reduction goal was approximately 1.5%.  In 2020 the reduction was set at 1.74%, and from 2021 onward it is set at 2.2%. Companies under the programme may trade allowances known as EUAs, each equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2, setting a price per tonne for carbon.

EUA Auctions

EEX hosts primary EUA auctions on behalf of EU member states almost daily, as well as EUAA (aviation) auctions.

Key Dates


Phase 1
2005-2007: Pilot Phase


Phase 2
2007-2012: Cap lowered by 6.5%


Phase 3
2013-2020: Cap lowered by 20% (goal acheived prior to 2020)


Phase 4
2021-2030: Aim to increase pace of emissions cuts to 43% compared to 1990

Quick Facts

  • 1 EUA is a certificate to emit 1 tonne of CO2 or CO2 equivalent 
  • Total annual cap is approximately 1.6bn EUAs
  • The EU ETS covers approximately 11,000 energy intensive installations in the 28 EU Member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway
  • Sectors included: Energy intensive sectors including oil refineries, steel works and iron production, aluminium, metals, cement, lime, glass, ceramics, pulp, paper, cardboard, acids and bulk organic chemicals
  • The EU ETS covers approximately 40% of the carbon footprint in Europe
  • Ultimate aim is to reduce GHG emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990
  • Total emissions have been declining by 45mt per year during Phase 3 (between 2017 and 2018, emissions decreased almost twice as fast as the cap)

Market Players

  • Energy sector

  • Industrial sector

  • Utility companies

  • Aviation Sector

  • Financials: banks, trading houses, hedgefunds, trading firms

Supporting Prices: Backloading and Market Stability Reserve (MSR)

Backloading was the first step to tackle the large surplus – it delayed the supply of EUAs into the market in the short term by postponing some auctions.

The MSR supports prices by removing surplus EUAs from the market. Beginning on 1st January 2019, it reduces new supply by cancelling government auctions, until the calculated surplus falls below a specified threshold.

Primary and Secondary Market

During Phase III of the scheme (2012-2020), 57% of the total amount of allowances will be auctioned, while the remaining allowances are available for targeted free allocation to industry.

2018’s secondary market volume exceeded 13 billion tonnes as either spot, futures or options contracts.

EU Aviation Allowances

EUAAs – Airlines flying into or out of Europe may comply with the EU ETS using EU Aviation Allowances (EUAAs) or EUAs.

CORSIA – Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation

  • Global market based measure to offset aviation emissions growth
  • Phase I: 2021-2027 – Voluntary 85% coverage
  • Phase II: 2027 – Mandatory ~99.5% coverage

Share of EU ETS Allowances by Country (2018)

More Resources and Information

European Products List

See the full list of environmental products listed on EEX

Product Resources

Find more information for all our environmental products including materials to download

North American Products List

See all the environmental contracts listed on Nodal Exchange