May 16, 2014 / 4:56 PM / 5 years ago

Campaigners say shortcomings in EU carbon permit data harmful

* Campaigners say new emissions rules lack transparency

* EU data no longer shows company-level offset use

* Investor group says may harm future investment

By Ben Garside

LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - Investors and environmental campaigners have criticised the European Union for no longer revealing the types of foreign carbon credits each company is using to help meet emission regulations.

The lobbyists say the lack of access could discourage future investment in carbon-cutting projects and make it more difficult for companies to select schemes they judge to be more environmentally robust or that have additional benefits such as alleviating poverty.

On Thursday the European Commission published data showing how many carbon credits had been used by EU companies to meet their 2013 obligations under the bloc’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Since 2005 over 13,000 power plants factories and airlines have been allowed to use a limited number of U.N.-backed credits towards their annual requirement to surrender carbon permits for every tonne of CO2 they emit.

Under new rules from this year, companies can no longer turn in the credits directly but must swap them for more expensive EU Allowances, the market’s staple currency.

This means the annual compliance data no longer links each credit to the company that used it.

“That (link) was useful information to help inform future investment decisions to determine demand for certain types of projects,” said Miles Austin, of the Climate Markets and Investment Association, which represents banks and venture capitalists who fund low-carbon projects worldwide.

An official from the European Commission declined to comment on whether the executive was considering publishing the company-level data in another form.


Most companies buy carbon credits in the secondary market, relying on scrutiny by EU and U.N. regulators to ensure that each credit represents the reduction of a tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Others, such as Dutch utility Eneco, opt to source the credits or invest in projects directly.

Environmental campaigners said the change in data also makes it easier for companies to conceal compliance costs and harder for lobbyists to pressure for reform.

“The Commission has just given a huge gift to those industry lobbyists who routinely exaggerate the costs the EU ETS poses to them,” Damien Morris of Sandbag Climate Campaign said.

Heavy industries have opposed reforms that would push their ETS costs higher that those faced by rivals in countries outside the European Union with looser environmental regulations.

Eva Filzmoser of Carbon Market Watch said the detailed data was instrumental in the group’s successful campaign for the EU ban on the use of projects that destroy industrial gases.

She added that the data had provided an incentive for companies to apply corporate social responsibility policies as well by buying credits not connected to accusations of human rights violations.

One such instance occurred in 2011 when EDF Trading , a subsidiary of French utility EDF, said it would no longer buy credits from a project in Honduras whose owners were alleged to have stolen land to develop palm oil plantations.

“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,” Filzmoser said. (editing by Jane Baird)

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