The UK government has made more than €1bn ($1.35bn) selling carbon permits to polluting businesses, and could make billions more each year for the next decade, research published Thursday shows. But despite pressure from the European Union, none of the revenue raised is being directed towards green projects.
On Thursday, the UK made about 63 million Euros off a new batch of permits, the first since trading was halted for two weeks after hackers stole around 40 million Euros worth of the permits. The government plans to hold five more auctions this year, selling 17.5m permits, which could represent a gain to the Treasury of more than €260m at current carbon prices. From 2013, the government stands to make as much as €8bn a year, according to estimates from the UK’s Carbon Trust.
Permit auctions started in 2008, when changes to the EU’s rules on emissions trading meant member state governments were allowed to sell off up to 10% of their allocation of permits, which had previously been given out for free. The UK decided to auction 7%, covering the emissions of the power sector.
From 2013, about half of the total number of permits available are expected to be sold. The only companies expected to receive their permits free of charge are those in industries particularly vulnerable to competition from overseas businesses that are not subject to the same strict environmental regulations.
The enlarged number of permits available for auctioning will greatly boost the government’s revenues from the scheme, according to the Carbon Trust, while simultaneously helping the environment by forcing companies to reduce carbon emissions or buy permits off other companies (who would thus have to have fewer emissions).
All in all, a good day for the environment and the UK government.