Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

EU Emissions Trading System: Trading allowances

Trading allowances

Each member state of the European Union (EU) has a national emissions trading registry for greenhouse gas allowances. These online databases are vital components of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) as they enable participants of the scheme to trade allowances.

If you operate an installation with EU ETS obligations, you must open an operator holding account with the UK emissions trading registry. The registry also contains person holding accounts. Any individual or organisation can apply to open such an account.

The EU ETS Registry is managed by the Environment Agency in the UK. It records:

  • CO2 allowance allocations for installations
  • annual verified emissions
  • movement of allowances and units between accounts, including allocations, transfers, surrender and cancellations
  • annual reconciliation of allowances and verified emissions.

Accounts are available through online registration and are subject to a nominal fee, which covers the cost of security checks.

DAERA: How to apply for a UK registry account

SEPA: Participating in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme

You can buy or sell EU allowances in several ways:

  • trading directly with other businesses
  • buying or selling from intermediaries, eg banks and specialist traders
  • using the services of a broker
  • joining one of the several exchanges that list carbon allowance products
  • UK government or other EU member state auctions.


In Phase II of the EU ETS (the current phase), the UK government will auction 7 per cent of EU allowances. These competitive auctions are open to anyone who has an EU ETS Registry account. To place a competitive bid in an auction, you need to submit bids through an intermediary known as a Primary Participant who has direct access to the auctions.

The UK government is also holding non-competitive auctions, which are open to anyone with a greenhouse gas permit from any EU member state. In these auctions, participants can submit a bid for up to 10,000 allowances and will pay the clearing price from the competitive auctions.

GOV.UK: Information about EU ETS auctions

You can also email the DECC EU ETS auctioning team at eu.ets@decc.gsi.gov.uk.

In this Guideline

What is emissions trading?

EU Emissions Trading System: Who is affected

EU Emissions Trading System: How to comply

EU Emissions Trading System: Trading allowances

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NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms