EU emissions trading scheme to be re-opened step by step after cyber attack

Cyber attack on EU emissions trading scheme

It is unlikely that no more than half the registries in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme will be re-opened tomorrow after a possible co-ordinated theft by hackers of up to 30 million euros (£25.90 million) of carbon permits.

The EU on Wednesday imposed a week-long freeze on spot trade in its carbon market, the bloc's chief weapon for fighting climate change, after emissions permits called EU allowances (EUAs) were stolen from accounts in the Czech Republic and Austria.

The scheme was being re-opened step by step as security improved.

But at a European Parliament hearing yesterday, Jos Delbeke, the head of the Commission's climate action division, said it was unlikely that half the registries would be re-opened tomorrow.

Member states had to prove their security before they re-opened, he said.

The suspension of the freeze expires at 7pm tomorrow.

An EU spokeswoman said last week the theft may have resulted from “concerted action", but ruled out deliberate sabotage.

The EU ETS caps nearly half the bloc's carbon emissions by allocating a fixed quota of EUAs to factories and power plants.

The European Commission’s climate action spokeswoman Maria Kokkonen said at this stage it was “theft, not sabotage”.

“It could be possible that it is concerted action, because the recent incidence, they happened within the last five days.”

"The member states are now investigating. We are in close contact," she said.

Asked when trade might resume, she said: "It depends (on) the action and the speed of reaction of the member states.

Some 14 registries in the 27 member state bloc are not up to scratch at present, she added.

A senior official at the EU's executive Commission, who declined to be named, said the suspension would be lifted in phases, starting with registries that proved their security.

Germany's registry successfully foiled an attack a few weeks ago, said a second senior official. "The red line was raised." EU officials could not rule out the possibility that regular traders had perpetrated the theft.

In all up to 2 million EUAs were stolen, worth 28.7 million euros at Thursday's prices, said Mr Delbeke.

The latest attack followed a multi-billion-euro VAT fraud, a phishing scam and a scandal involving the re-sale of used carbon credits.

"This market is really suffering, and once again we are revisited by the same issues of fraud," said one trader.

The United States, Japan and Australia have all delayed implementing cap and trade schemes, and the latest glitch to the EU system - by far the largest in the world - could detract further from global adoption.

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