February 6, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 37


February 06, 2023

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

February 03, 2023

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism Proposal and Its Relationship to the European Emission Trading Scheme

A new carbon policy under consideration by the European Union has implications for the global import/export market and would add significant compliance costs for certain industries. The Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is a carbon-pricing system for imports into the European Union.1 It is aimed at adjusting the price of certain imported products to the amount of CO2 emissions incorporated in them, in order to equalize the cost of carbon between EU products and these imports.

The CBAM, which is proposed to be applicable as of January 1, 2023, would initially only cover products from the following sectors: 


If implemented and applicable starting January 1, 2023, EU importers would have to begin reporting emissions embedded in these products on that date. In addition, EU importers would start paying a financial adjustment, as described below, as of January 1, 2026.

The measure is designed to reduce the risk that European companies move their carbon emission-producing activities outside the EU in order to take advantage of lower environmental standards (so-called carbon leakage) or that European products suffer competition from foreign production subject to lower carbon compliance costs.

In short, the mechanism requires that importers purchase specific emission-related certificates for a price equal to that which they would have paid if the goods had been produced within the EU. If, however, the importer can prove that a carbon price was already paid in the country of production, the corresponding cost can be deducted.

The countries likely to be most impacted by CBAM, in order, are: Russia, Turkey, China, Ukraine, India, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Mozambique, Egypt, the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Korea.

The United Kingdom and South Korea may be (almost) exempted given their own emission trading systems and generally higher CO2 costs. These countries do, however, import a significant amount of goods into the EU that would be covered by the CBAM, so there could be exposure to significant compliance obligations.

The relationship between the CBAM and the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) would be complex. The CBAM is proposed to be complementary to the ETS. In a nutshell, the ETS sets a cap on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by industrial facilities in the sectors covered by the ETS. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions decrease. Industries buy or receive emission allowances and must hold enough allowances to fully cover their emissions, otherwise incurring heavy fines. Therefore, the allowances have an economic value and can be traded by companies as financial instruments, allowing “virtuous” companies to sell their excess allowances and others to buy allowances if needed, thus encouraging investment in innovative technologies with low environmental impact. The allowances, in principle, are purchased through competitive auctions. However, some sectors, to a greater or lesser extent, receive part of their allowances free of charge to avoid an excessive competitive disadvantage with respect to non-EU companies. The number of free allowances is progressively reduced over the years.

Under the proposal, the price of CBAM certificates potentially would be measured based on the price of ETS certificates calculated per the weekly average auction price of ETS allowances expressed in EUR/ton of CO2 emitted. In general, CBAM certificate prices would be applied only in specific sectors, gradually and in direct proportion to the reduction of free allowances allocated under the ETS. In other words, until free ETS allowances are completely eliminated in 2035, the CBAM would apply only to the portion of emissions that do not benefit from free ETS allowances, to ensure a carbon level playing field between European companies and those of third countries exporting certain goods into the EU. 


1 See Oct. 15 GT Alert, “EU Proposal for the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism,” for additional details on the proposal.

©2023 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 316

About this Author

Martin Hamer Environmental Lawyer Greenberg Traurig Law Firm Germany

Martin Hamer is a Partner in the Environmental Group in Germany. He focuses on environmental matters including soil and groundwater contamination, environmental permits, nature protection, waste management, mining and climate protection. Martin represents clients in complex permit procedures vis-à-vis public authorities, environmental liability litigation and public law contract negotiations. In addition, he advises on environmental and other regulatory matters in corporate and real estate transactions. Amongst his clients are manufacturers, real estate companies, private equity funds,...

Edoardo Gambaro Antitrust Litigation & Competition Regulation Attorney Greenberg Traurig Milan, Italy

Edoardo Gambaro focuses his practice on Italian and European antitrust law. He represents Italian and foreign companies in proceedings before the European Commission in the application of Articles 101, 102, and 108 of the TFEU (cartel, abuse of dominant position and state aid matters). He also advises on EU procedural law, assisting companies in appellate proceedings before the EU General Court and the EU Court of Justice. He represents companies before the Italian Antitrust Authority and on appeal before the Italian administrative Courts.

Edoardo is experienced in the field of...

(39) 02.77197205
Martino Basilisco Milan Italy Antitrust Trade Trainee Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Martino joined the firm as a trainee in January 2021. His practice is mainly focused on antitrust law, European Union law, and international trade law. He regularly supports the professionals of the firm on a broad range of Italian corporate law issues as well as on EU law-related matters.

+02 7719771