Cancel pollution permits

Take a personal stake in the ETS - buy and destroy a permit from the system

The Carbon Destruction service is temporarily closed as we make some changes to how it operates.
There’s more information about what we’re planning to change below.

Please bear with us!

For any questions please contact us


What is Carbon Destruction?

Since our launch in 2008, Sandbag has offered the public and businesses the chance to cancel emission allowances from the EU Emissions Trading System. Each one of these allowances is a permit to pollute one tonne of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide). The less of these allowances in circulation, the lower the total possible emissions of EU power plants and industry.

When an allowance is purchased, the President’s of the European Institutions receive an email letting them know that EU citizens care about how the EU fights climate change, and urging them to take action to make EU climate policy more ambitious.


Why have we closed the Destroy Carbon project?

After a decade of reform, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) is unfortunately no closer to driving emissions cuts:

  • The carbon price hovers around €9, too low to make a meaningful difference on company balance sheets
  • The structural surplus is now over 3 billion tonnes of spare allowances, and growing (the ETS cap remains far above real emissions, so the surplus will likely continue to grow)
  • 193,697 allowances have been voluntarily cancelled to date, including Sandbag and others. This is clearly a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the surplus, which requires a political solution
  • Free allocation of ETS allowances to industry has, at least in some cases, actually increased emissions, and the European Parliament has now committed to increasing this ~€200 billion industrial subsidy scheme after 2020

So, the carbon market is broken, and won’t feasibly turn into a functioning climate policy for at least the next decade. Meanwhile, other policies have had tremendous success;

  • Air pollution regulations and Member State carbon taxes have begun the coal phase-out
  • Renewables targets have driven a technological revolution in wind and solar
  • Energy efficiency targets and regulations have cut electricity use even as the European economy has continued to grow

In mid-February, the European Parliament voted on a reform package for the EU ETS which failed to change very much. The European Council was more ambitious, but even if trialogues agree on the best of their amendments, the carbon price is unlikely to rise significantly for at least a decade.

Sandbag can no longer be sure that the cancellation of an allowance directly and immediately stops polluters from emitting a tonne of CO2; the surplus is so huge that polluters can simply pick another spare allowance and use that instead.

As a result, we feel Carbon Destruction on a large scale cannot currently provide a credible way to cut emissions.

In future, if the market tightens and the surplus is brought down, cancelling emissions allowances will again become a very effective way to cut emissions, so we’ll remain ready to restart the full project.

Meanwhile, we’ve taken down the project in order to update it. When it is again online, we will offer single permit purchases (one tonne of CO2) as a symbolic statement of intent for all those who want policymakers to take firm action on climate change.

Together, we’ve permanently cancelled many thousands of allowances from the carbon market, and I think we can be proud of that. Sandbag continues to work to challenge the unambitious European institutions into creating climate policy that works.

If you’d like to discuss this thorny issue with us, or have any thoughts, please contact me at phil@sandbag.org.uk

© 2019 Sandbag Climate Campaign CIC
Registered as a Community Interest Company in England & Wales: Company No. 6714443, Trading Address: Work.Life, 20 Jerusalem Passage, London, EC1V 4JP