First European CO2 trade goes on sale

Anonymous eastern European country lures Norwegian business with energy plant project

A newspaper advertisement in the Norwegian national newspaper Aftenposten has caused a stir with an offer to "sell" a carbon dioxide quota in return for financial help in modernising a coal-fired power installation in an eastern European country. Although a few international carbon dioxide trades have been agreed between companies, this is believed to be the first such offer to be made in Europe.

Headlined "CO2 emissions quota for sale", the advertisement says: "In connection with the modernisation of a large coal-fired energy complex in east Europe the sale is considered part of a CO2 emissions quota. The current coal-fired steam turbine plant will be replaced by two natural gas-fired energy blocks with gas turbines, steam turbines and exhaust gas boilers for the production of process steam....Investment cost about NKr255m" (Ecu27.4m).

"Preliminary calculations suggest the plant will result in a CO2 reduction of 1.8m tonnes per year. Construction of the gas turbine installation will be financed by sale of the emissions quota. The buyer of the emissions quota can expect part-ownership of the gas turbine installation."

In a front-page article about the advertisement, Aftenposten has interpreted the advertisement as being aimed at "Norwegian business leaders with CO2 headaches" and notes that 1.8m tonne figure is "somewhat less" than the total emissions expected from two controversial proposed gas power stations on Norway's west coast.

The newspaper continued: "For Norway and Norwegian businesses, quota trading will be one way of fulfilling the Kyoto agreement's goal of reductions in the emissions of six climate gases from 2008-2012."

According to an expert quoted by Aftenposten, one-third of Norwegian emissions reductions could be achieved through buying quotas from other countries. Researcher Cathrine Hagem notes that any such deals must be approved by national authorities in the respective countries, and stresses the "great uncertainty" surrounding the relevant statistics in eastern Europe.

Erik Haugen of the Federation of Norwegian Process Industries (PIL), representing some of the companies emitting the most climate gases, says: "The advertisement shows that the companies are interested in exploiting the potential of the Kyoto agreement for quota trading and exchange of technology."

Ola Bøsterud of the industrial giant Elkem says: "Quota trading and a joint international approach to achieving the goals of the Kyoto agreement are of course interesting. But for Elkem the first aim is to reduce CO2 emissions by exploiting existing energy conservation possibilities in our own industry."

Follow Up:
Aftenposten, tel: +47 22 86 30 00.

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