EU Carbon Price Falls After Lawmaker Suggests Market Tweaks to Prevent Spikes

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The Benchmark European carbon contract fell more than 5% on Wednesday afternoon after a key European lawmaker suggested changes could be made to the EU's carbon market to allow the European Commission to act swiftly if prices rose too quickly.

The Benchmark December 2022 contract was trading at 91.54 euros/tonne by 1645 GMT, down 5.5% on Tuesday's close.

European carbon prices rose around 150% last year and reached a record 98.49 euros a tonne earlier this week.

Peter Liese, the European Parliament's lead negotiator on reforms of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) said on his website the market needed to be better protected against possible manipulation.

"I could imagine to increase the transparency and surveillance of the market and to change article 29a that enables the Commission to intervene in the market, if the price increase is too sharp," he said.

The Commission declined to comment on calls for intervention in the carbon market.

Article 29a of the ETS rules is designed to prevent "excessive" CO2 price spikes. It allows countries to add extra permits to the market if the CO2 permit price is, for at least six months, more than three times the average price in the two preceding years, and policymakers conclude that this does not reflect market fundamentals. The article has never been used.

Factories and power plants must buy permits from the ETS to cover each tonne of CO2 they emit.

The price of those permits has traded at record-high levels near 100 euros per tonne of CO2 this year, having increased by more than 150% during 2021. Countries including Poland and Spain say financial speculators are behind the rise, and have asked Brussels to intervene.

Carbon prices have been stoked by factors including soaring gas prices in recent months as tight supply collided with high demand in economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. EU plans to reform the carbon market to curb emissions faster have also boosted prices, as Brussels seeks to meet its goal to cut emissions 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Parliament will vote on Liese's proposal in the coming months, and then start negotiations with EU countries, who must also approve the reforms.

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