16th Jan 2019

EU industry commissioner pushes for exemptions to emissions trading system

  • Polluting in the EU is set to become more expensive from 2013 (Photo: EUobserver)

EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen is pushing for EU leaders at their summit next week to agree that energy intensive industries should have a special status when it comes to the bloc's pollution-reducing emissions trading scheme (ETS).

German daily Handelsblatt reports that Mr Verheugen next week, during the 13-14 March summit, will argue that industries due to be heaviest hit by the emissions scheme - a system that was tightened up at the beginning of the year - should be exempted.

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Mr Verhuegen's position threatens to run into opposition from within the commission itself, with President Jose Manuel Barroso and environment commissioner Stavros Dimas recently indicating that a decision on possible exceptions from the emissions system should only be taken in 2011.

Under the ETS, permits to emit carbon dioxide are traded between companies with those polluting less, able to sell their pollution credits to industries that pollute more.

Particularly energy-intensive industries include the chemical, steel, cement and paper industries.

Mr Verheugen told Handelsblatt that EU leaders next week should send out a very clear signal on the issue.

"Energy intensive sectors need a clear, binding undertaking so that they stay in Europe and do not have to stop their development plans," said the commissioner.

Mr Barroso has previously argued for waiting to make a decision on exemptions in case there is a worldwide climate change agreement - negotiations on this are to start next year - that would require industries beyond the EU to lower carbon dioxide emissions as well.

They argue that in this case, the EU's energy-intensive industries would not be disadvantaged, so would not need to be exempted.

But Mr Verheugen says that if such industries do not know where they stand now, then they will move outside the EU.

The EU introduced its emissions trading scheme in 2005 and it considers the ETS the key to the bloc reaching its main green goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

The ETS currently covers some 11,500 energy-intensive installations throughout the EU but the system is considered too lax with stories of some industries making windfall profits from the system.

Currently member states draw up so-called national allocation plans, under which they grant permits to pollute to their companies.

But Mr Dimas earlier this year introduced plans to tighten up the system. From 2013, the permits will start to be auctioned making it much more costly for heavily polluting industries.

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