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Carbon leakage mythbuster: Netherlands

Executive summary

Netherlands_carbonleakage_mythbuster_coverThis policy brief interprets the findings of a new study by CE Delft that shows how energy-intensive companies in the Netherlands have massively profited from their pollution to the count of €1 billion because they are deemed to be at risk of “carbon leakage”. “Carbon leakage” refers to a hypothetical situation where companies transfer production to countries with weaker climate policies in order to lower their costs. Under the current EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) rules, industrial companies that are believed to be at risk of “carbon leakage” are awarded free pollution permits.

  • Free allocation has resulted in significant windfall profits for corporations. Windfall profits occur when industrial companies are over-subsidised for their pollution. Energy-intensive companies in the Netherlands made over €1 billion from the EU ETS during 2008-2014. The corporations in the Netherlands that were able to make the most profits from the EU’s carbon market are Tata Steel (over €300 million), Shell (over €200 million) and Chemelot (€90 million).
  • European taxpayers are picking up the bill as governments forego income and lose out on revenues from auctioning these pollution permits. As a result of free allocation, less money is available for investments in the climate friendly transition of the European economy. In the 2008-2014 period, the Dutch government has given out 533 million free pollution permits and has thereby missed out on at least €6.4 billion in auctioning revenues.

In the coming months, European policymakers will revise the current EU ETS rules for the post-2020 period. The policy brief concludes with recommendations how to change the current carbon leakage rules to ensure that further windfall profits are avoided.


Read national fact sheet here

Read full CE Delft report here

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