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European cap-and-trade market takes a nose dive

The European Union’s cap-and-trade system took a huge hit on Thursday, with carbon prices plummeting a record 40 percent after a panel rejected a plan to delay emission permit sales to alleviate the overabundance of permits already in the system.

“The market is panicking, really,” Daniel Rossetto, managing director of Climate Mundial, told Bloomberg, adding that traders fear that Europe’s carbon emissions market won’t continue past 2020.

An excess of carbon emission permits in the 54 billion euro trading system drove the price down 91 percent from its record high in April 2006. Carbon permit prices sank to a record low of 2.81 euros ($3.75) per metric ton immediately after the panel rejected the EU plan. However, prices slightly rebounded to 4.33 euros per metric ton.

“This should be the final wake-up call,” said EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard in a statement. “Something has to be done urgently. I can therefore only appeal to the governments and the European Parliament to act responsibly.”

The Financial Times reports that the carbon market has seen two record-low prices within the last four days, causing some analysts to say carbon permits are “worthless.”

The European Commission wanted to temporarily delay the sale of 900 million permits to alleviate the current overabundance. Analysts say this move would have boosted prices, but not high enough to provide sufficient incentives for utilities to switch to cleaner energy sources, reports the Guardian.

However, the plan was met with resistance from various governments, industries, and lawmakers.

Joachim Pfeiffer, economy spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, said the plan was “absurd” and would impose higher costs on German industry.

Reuters reports that the bank Societe Generale cut its EU carbon price forecast from 2013 to 2015 by 30 percent, due to prices plunging to record lows.

“Negative news and events relating to the EU [Emissions Trading System] continue to pile up and come from all sides. So it is not at all surprising that EUA prices have fallen and have continued to be quite volatile,” they said. “The EU ETS has become a one-way market, spiraling down.”

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