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European carbon trading remains suspended

BRUSSELS (AP) — The suspension of spot trading on European carbon emission markets entered its second week Thursday, as national regulators awaited confirmation from the European Union that their security systems were up to date.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, on Jan. 19 suspended all spot trading of carbon permits after hackers, in a spate of cyber attacks in several states, stole emission certificates worth some 28 million ($38 million). It said at the time that spot trading would remain closed down until national registries — which manage companies’ accounts and keep track of the ownership of carbon permits — had upgraded their online security to prevent further attacks.

Europe’s emissions trading system limits the carbon dioxide emissions of big plants and factories in the EU’s 27 member states — plus Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland — by issuing allowances for each ton of carbon they can emit. At the same time, firms can gain carbon credits, for reducing emissions.

Allowances and credits can be traded, providing a financial incentive to cut emissions. Over time, the number of allowances will be lowered, thus cutting overall emissions in the EU.

All permits have a serial number, and authorities across Europe are still working on tracking down the stolen permits. “We will not reopen our market until we can filter out all permits that are in question,” said Keiron Allen, a spokesman for Paris-based carbon exchange BlueNext. BlueNext suspended spot trading on Jan. 19 ahead of the Commission’s orders after being informed of the attacks.

Germany’s national carbon registry said it had sent the necessary paperwork to the Commission and was now awaiting confirmation that it would be let back onto the market. “Transactions are still not possible,” said Julie Steinen, a spokeswoman for the German registry.

In a statement on its website, Belgium’s national registry said the suspension of transactions could last several weeks, since it would take some time to organize the independent tests and reports demanded by the Commission. “Because of that, the Belgian registry, like most other registries, expects that transactions will remain blocked over the coming weeks,” it said.

The Commission will give national registries 24 hours notice before reconnecting them to the trading system once it has made sure that security standards are up to date, said Lena De Visscher, a spokeswoman for the EU’s Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

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