The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a world first and a major weapon in Europe's fight against climate change. The innovative system has turned carbon dioxide emissions into a tradeable commodity. They can now be bought and sold like any other of the thousands of products traded on world markets today.
The scheme works by placing a limit or a 'cap' on the amount of carbon dioxide participating installations - currently around 10,500 across the European Union - can emit every year. If an installation emits more than its allowance, it must either pay a very hefty fine or buy surplus allowances from companies that have managed to stay below their limit. The system ensures that overall CO2 emissions from the plants covered are cut in the most cost effective way.