EU Environment Chief Urges Member States Not to Undermine Emissions Trading Plan

The European Union's environmental chief on Thursday urged member states not to undermine Europe's emissions trading plan -- lauded as an international model for reducing pollution.

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Union's environmental chief on Thursday urged member states not to undermine Europe's emissions trading plan -- lauded as an international model for reducing pollution.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said he would rigorously review on the next phase of the carbon trading plan to ensure the program is meeting its targets. He said he would also present proposals before the end of the year to expand the trading program to include all airlines that use European airports.

The EU emissions trading program is designed to help it meet that target, without hurting businesses. The program limits CO2 output in member countries, giving companies a carbon allowance that they can sell to others if they do not need their full entitlement.

"The (European) Commission cannot allow the credibility of this crucial and innovative policy instrument to be undermined, we will have to be tough in our assessment of national plans," Dimas said after signing a declaration by 50 leading economists and the World Wildlife Fund calling on the EU to adopt a more stringent emission limits.

Dimas agreed with their concerns that the 25 EU governments are doing little to properly put the program into effect, citing concerns that industrial emission cuts could hurt economic growth.

The acknowledgment comes as a U.N. conference on climate change is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, aiming to secure an agreement on further cuts to pollution after 2012 to fight climate change.

The EU hopes to use the conference to promote its emissions trading system to other nations, notably the United States, where several state governments like California are keen to cut emissions, despite opposition to such measures from Washington.

Dimas is under pressure to get all 25 EU states to meet their commitments so that the bloc can meet its 2012 target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 8 percent from 1990 levels. The target is part of the Kyoto global climate change pact. "We have to deliver on our obligations," Dimas said.

Trading of emissions allowances between industry is at the heart of the EU's policy to meet those targets, but it risks unraveling because national governments granted too many pollution credits to industry during the first phase of the trading propram, between 2005-2007.

Dimas has chided EU governments for submitting inadequate new plans for the next trading phase, which is supposed to start in 2008.

"Quite a number of member states adopted allocation plans ... that are higher than last years actual emissions," Dimas said. "We have shown that it is possible to reduce emissions even with healthy economic growth."

Dimas said he would issue his first official assessments of new allocation plans at the end of November.

On airlines, Dimas said he would issue a proposal in the next weeks to make the sector subject to climate change rules, including them in the emissions trading scheme. The airline sector has so far been exempt from the plan.

Dimas said all airlines, both foreign and domestic will have to enter the scheme and purchase emissions credits, a move likely to anger Washington which is vehemently opposed to the proposal, which has been floated for several years.

He said airlines could be included as early as 2010, if EU governments agree to the measure. The United States has said such a move could violate international aviation law.

University of Cambridge Prof. Michael Grubb said the allocations of emissions credits to industry by many EU governments "are too lax," and fail to create incentives to get business to cut back emissions.

"A few countries, like Spain, stand out for making a serious effort, but too many others contradict Europe's claims to lead on climate change," Grubb told reporters.

Stephen Singer, from the World Wildlife Fund said a stronger emissions trading scheme with deeper cuts was "essential" for the 25-nation bloc to meet their Kyoto targets.

The environmental group said its assessment of plans by EU governments was "not encouraging" and showed that the EU's top polluting nations, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and Britain were not respecting EU rules in cutting pollution.

Source: Associated Press

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