Accounting for carbon emission allowances in the European Union: in search of consistency

Celeste M. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


With the commencement of Phase III of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in 2013, it is projected that approximately one-half of emission allowances will be acquired through auctioning and the provision of free allocations to installations will be substantially tightened. As a result, it is likely that many companies will hold purchased (as opposed to freely allocated or gratis) allowances and will have more significant liabilities under the scheme. The accounting treatment of emission allowances has therefore become more relevant and the lack of uniformity in practice that resulted after the withdrawal of IFRIC 3 is now a more pressing concern. This study uses content analysis to examine disclosed accounting policies of companies with significant emission liabilities under the EU ETS and identifies three more common approaches adopted to date. These can be generally described as the following: (i) a net liability approach, based on the classification of allowances as intangibles but only showing an emission liability when it exceeds the free allocation; (ii) an approach broadly based on IFRIC 3 (recognising the free allocation at fair value and a corresponding gross liability under the EU ETS); and (iii) an approach based on inventory classification, with free allocations given at nil value. The diversity in these treatments highlights the need for guidance from the International Accounting Standards Board.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
Number of pages17
JournalAccounting in Europe
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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