The new rules were originally proposed by the European Commission to prepare for the aviation sector's entry into the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) from 2012. But they also include measures to combat fraud in the aftermath of recent cyber attacks on national registries.
The emissions trading scheme is the EU's main tool for cutting carbon emissions by capping the amount companies are allowed to emit. Companies exceeding their quota have to buy electronic emission permits from others that have improved their environmental performance.
Last month, Internet fraudsters sent fake emails to companies that use the registries, directing them to a rogue website where they were asked to enter their identification code and password. They then used the codes to obtain emission allowances and sold them on.
The EU executive said that "a limited number" of fraudulent transactions were made before member states reacted. But the scam, known as 'phishing' in Internet jargon, is estimated to have cost the companies that fell for it millions of euros in total.
The new anti-fraud measures, approved by the European Council's climate change committee, will allow national administrators to refuse to open a new account or suspend or close accounts. The revision also allows registry information to be shared between national authorities at EU level to facilitate the fight against cyber crime.
"This is a good thing. I am happy that the climate change committee has taken the decision today. It proves that the EU takes action for the security of the registry users," said Connie Hedegaard, the EU's commissioner for climate action.
The antifraud measures are expected to enter into force this summer after the revised regulation has been scrutinised by the European Parliament and the Council. But most of the revision will apply from 2012 onwards, when the aviation sector starts trading emissions allowances.
This is not the first time that criminals have targeted the EU ETS. Last summer, wide-spread VAT crime was unveiled, whereby fraudsters bought carbon credits in one country without VAT, then sold them in another country with VAT added, and disappeared before paying the tax to the government (EurActiv 01/10/09).