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EU Emissions Scheme Risks Becoming 'Pointless'

The aim of the scheme is to encourage industrial polluters to reduce their emissions by allowing them to sell any unused quotas to companies that have surpassed their allowances.
by Staff Writers
Luxembourg (AFP) Oct 23, 2006
The EU's innovative emissions trading scheme risks becoming "pointless" because members are giving more pollution permits than industrial plants need, the EU environment commissioner said Monday. "If member states put more allowances into the market than are needed to cover real emissions, the scheme will become pointless and it will be difficult to meet our Kyoto targets," commissioner Stavros Dimas told journalists in Luxembourg.

Member states are in the process of notifying the European Commission how many emissions allowances they will hand out to industrial polluters over the 2008-2012 period, the second phase of the landmark scheme.

The allowances are the cornerstone of the quota trading system which was launched at the beginning of 2005 to help member states meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The aim of the scheme is to encourage industrial polluters to reduce their emissions by allowing them to sell any unused quotas to companies that have surpassed their allowances.

However, Dimas said that member states that had filed their plans with the commission so far had allocated more emissions permits than polluters would probably emit, based on real emissions from 2005.

"I have to say that many of the national allocation plans that we received so far do not seem to take sufficient account of the real level of emissions from installations," he said.

"Much to my regret, taking together the first 17 national allocation plans that have been notified to us proposing emissions caps, that is about 15 percent above the emissions levels in those cases," Dimas added.

The scheme's credibility took a beating earlier this year when it emerged in May that polluters did not use all of the permits allocated to them during a 2005-2007 trial phase, causing the market price for permits to plunge.

Environmental groups seized on the discrepancy as evidence that EU governments had attributed too many allowances to companies and undermined the programme.

Earlier this month, the EU's executive commission launched proceedings against eight members for failing to send the allocation plans for the second 2008-2012 phase.

In a first step towards legal action, the commission sent warning letters to Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain for ignoring the deadline.

With member states ignoring the deadline or offering more permits than needed, Dimas reiterated a warning that he would go "tough" on countries that did not take the plans seriously.

"I've said repeatedly that the commission will be tough but fair in our evaluations of the national allocation plans," he said. "It is clear that we will need to be."

earlier related report
Britons 'most wasteful' energy users in Europe: poll
Britain is the least energy-efficient country in Europe, according to an NGO survey of the habits of 5,000 people across the continent published Monday.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) found that Germany was the most energy- conscious nation, based on the average number of wasteful acts committed each week, followed in order by Spain, France, Italy and Britain.

Germany scored 14, Spain 16, France 19, Italy 25 and the UK 32.

EST singled out for criticism Britons' over-dependence on tumble dryers, with 32 percent of them avoiding using a washing line to dry clothes altogether.

Italians are worst in Europe at forgetting to turn off the standby button on electrical appliances -- 80 percent are regular offenders, according to the trust -- while the French are willing to wear a jumper rather than turn up the heating.

Only 16 percent of them turn up the heating at least once a week, the EST said.

But it praised Spaniards for their conscientious use of heating systems, with only 12 percent leaving air-conditioning or heating on when they go out, compared to 28 percent in Britain.

Germans, meanwhile, are virtual paragons of green behaviour. Some 78 percent always turn off their car engines when sitting in traffic jams and 60 percent regularly wash their clothes at an economical temperature of 60 degrees celsius.

The chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, Philip Sellwood, predicted that unless Britons curb their habits by 2010, they could waste the equivalent of the annual carbon dioxide emissions of seven million homes.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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