Is rescuing the EU's emissions trading system impossible? Despite the substantial reform in 2008, subsequent problems of allowance surplus and a low carbon price have spurred new efforts to reform the system for the 2013–2020 phase. But these efforts have met resistance both among member states and in the European parliament, and the EU is struggling in its efforts to improve the ETS. This article draws on four central EU and political science theory approaches to more systematically explore why. The financial crisis and slow international policy progress have narrowed the window of opportunity that was open in 2008. Factors that could open that window again include an economic upswing, a new European commission and parliament, and new global negotiations in 2015. But even without short-term reform, the linear reduction factor will gradually tighten the system and lead to a higher carbon price.