E.U. launches mandatory carbon-trading market

With the new year began a “new era for European business,” according to Peter Koster, head of the fledgling European Climate Exchange, the world’s first mandatory market for carbon emissions trading. Under the Kyoto Protocol, ratified in October and set to go into force in February, the European Union agreed to reduce its carbon emissions by 8 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. The 25-country union began the first phase of its plan to achieve the reductions on Saturday, setting new limits, to be finalized in February, for some 12,000 of its industrial plants in carbon-intensive industries such as power generation, steel, cement, and paper pulp. Companies that exceed their allotted emissions must either pay a fine or buy pollution credits on the open market from less-polluting companies to stay in compliance. While some companies complain the new targets will be difficult to meet, regulators say the initial limits are quite lenient. Peter Zapfel, a climate specialist at the European Commission, insists that “the psychological hurdles for companies are much higher than the real ones.”