EU politicians voted to launch reforms to strengthen the EU carbon market by the end of 2018

European politicians voted on Tuesday to launch reforms to strengthen the EU carbon market by the end of 2018, earlier than a European Commission proposal of 2021 but later than traders had anticipated.

The environment committee vote in the European Parliament still needs to be followed by further negotiations and then to be endorsed by EU member states to become law.

Weak economic growth has cut industrial production and energy demand, creating a glut of allowances that has depressed prices, blunting the drive to shift industry away from highly polluting coal and towards low carbon energy.

Those keenest to accelerate reforms to strengthen the world’s biggest carbon market include Britain, Germany and major utilities, which want investment in zero-emissions energy.

They had been pushing for a 2017 start, which was rejected by committee vote. Instead, the committee said the reforms should begin by Dec. 31, 2018

But in a positive for the market, the committee overwhelmingly backed, with 57 votes in favour, 10 against and one abstention, an immediate start to negotiations between the Commission, parliament and member states on a legal text, rather than waiting for a plenary vote in the European Parliament.

Getting to work on negotiating a legal text at this stage should accelerate agreement on a final deal.

To help boost prices, the environment committee has backed putting hundreds of millions of surplus carbon allowances into a so-called Market Stability Reserve in 2018. These allowances could be returned to the market if demand increases.