From: Jenna Payne, Associated Press
Published February 14, 2005 12:00 AM

EU Cautions UK of Legal Action if it Exceeds Greenhouse Gas Emissions

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Union on Monday said it will take legal action against Britain if it exceeds its national quota of emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" in the 2005-2007 period.


The EU said it will hold London to its plan, unveiled last April, to emit no more than 736.3 million tons of carbon dioxide.


Since then, Britain has added 19.8 million tons to the total under pressure from British industries.


Any excess over the April quota "we will consider as illegal," EU spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said. "We hope very much that the (British) allowances are in the plan that was submitted last April."


If Britain exceeds that ceiling, the EU will take London to the EU high court in Luxembourg, she added.


The emissions plan is Britain's contribution to the 1997 Kyoto accord on curbing industrial "greenhouse gas" emissions that are blamed for global warming. The treaty takes effect Wednesday.


Helfferich said under EU rules, Britain had a chance to amend its initial plan, but chose not to and that the extra 19.8 million tons were added too late.


Last October, Britain revised its April plan, allowing British industries to emit more carbon dioxide. It said the initial plan contained calculation errors and would harm the British economy.


The government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has made environment a key priority and has urged the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to adhere to the Kyoto agreement that is an adjunct to the 1992 U.N. treaty on climate change.


The Kyoto treaty has been ratified by 140 nations, but its binding restrictions apply to only 35 industrialized countries, committed to reducing or limiting output of six gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal and oil products.


The United States signed the treaty, but the U.S. Senate had resolved in advance not to accept it, citing potential damage to the American economy and demanding that such emerging polluters as China and India be covered.


By 2012 the EU is to reduce emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels and Japan by 6 percent.


All EU countries _ except the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and Greece, which are now finalizing their plans _ have drafted "National Allocation Plans," setting maximum ceilings to their greenhouse gas emissions.


EU nations will let their industries "trade" ceilings. The plan covers 12,000 facilities _ from power units to pulp and paper plants _ and provides a cheap way to reduce emissions while keeping EU businesses competitive.


Each company has a cap on its emissions. Some may choose to lower their emissions and selling the difference to companies that want to exceed their ceilings. The system allows companies to buy or sell allocations while keeping the national quota stable.


Helfferich said trading between companies began two weeks ago, adding, "Trading has not been big enough to speak of a trend."


The EU estimates European companies will spend between euro2.9 billion (US$3.76 billion) to euro3.7 billion (US$4.8 billion) a year in emissions trading. Without a trading scheme, European companies would have to pay double that to meet the Kyoto targets.


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