Climate Policy 19(4), 439-452
This paper analyses the rules for free allocation in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The analysis draws on the empirical evidence emerging from two literature strands. One group of studies sheds light on the following questions: how efficient are free allocation rules in minimizing the risk of carbon leakage? Have they become more efficient over the trading periods? What are the technical limits to making them more efficient? Further: is firm behaviour affected by allowance allocation? Did specific provisions induce strategic behaviour with unintended effects? Studies from the second group estimate sectoral pass-through rates for the costs imposed by the EU ETS. Taking cost pass-through into account is necessary for properly targeting free allocation. The difficulty of accurately quantifying sectoral differences in cost pass-through ability, especially in manufacturing sectors (due to limited data availability and market heterogeneity), is the main hindrance to achieving further efficiency in allowance allocation. The new rules defined in the reform for Phase IV (2021–2030) nevertheless make some progress in this direction.