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EU countries approve early carbon market auctions

FILE PHOTO: Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE in Niederaussem

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union countries on Tuesday approved plans to auction carbon permits early to raise cash to help them quit Russian gas, meaning the law can now enter into force.

The plan will raise 20 billion euros ($21.3 billion) in grants from the EU carbon market, partly by holding carbon permit sales earlier than planned.

Countries will be able to spend the grants on renewable energy and energy-saving renovations to help replace Russian gas, and projects to help heavy industry decarbonise.

The rules were agreed last year by negotiators from EU countries and lawmakers, so Tuesday's approval was a formality that approved the deal with no changes. EU lawmakers okayed the deal earlier this month.

($1 = 0.9389 euros)

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Jason Neely)