24th Jul 2021

EU states spoiling emissions trading scheme, WWF says

  • Some of Europe's biggest polluters of greenhouse gasses are our energy companies (Photo: European Community, 2006)

The EU's carbon trading scheme may fail to achieve its goal of cutting greenhouse gasses from Europe's heavy industry unless the European Commission clamps down on the member states' weak allocation plans, environment group WWF has warned.

The EU's carbon emissions trade market (ETS) was set up in early 2005, providing a place where permits to pollute one tonne of carbon dioxide can be bought and sold between Europe's main polluting industries such as the energy sector.

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Member states were supposed to present the commission on 30 June with their allocation plans for the second phase of the scheme from 2008-2012.

But only 15 countries made the deadline, seven states have presented a draft while three member states - Denmark, Hungary and the Czech Republic - have kept silent.

The greenhouse gas exchange is the bloc's main tool for achieving the 2012 targets under the international Kyoto protocol on climate change.

"The ETS covers almost half of EU's emissions," Delia Villagrasa from WWF told EUobserver. "If this fails, then we are in serious trouble."

"The EU emissions trading scheme is a vital tool to deliver Europe's Kyoto Protocol targets. It is imperative that the scheme achieves reductions in Europe."

She also stressed the importance of the signal the EU sends to the rest of the world, especially the US. "Others will not take us seriously when we talk about cutting greenhouse gasses."

Ms Villagrasa called on the commission to assess the member state allocation proposals "very strictly and according to the guidelines they have set themselves."

Some of the worst offenders are Ireland, Spain and Poland who plan to permit many more credits to be used than are needed to meet their overall emissions targets, according to the preliminary findings from a report made for the WWF by consultancy group Ecofys.

The UK emerged relatively well, with a proposed limit on use of project credits which would require UK industry to make some effort to reduce emissions domestically.

One of the reasons why member states do not take the ETS seriously in their National Allocation Plan is because there is enormous pressure from industry in each EU country, according to Ms Villagrasa.

"In this sense the economy ministries are more powerful than the environment ministries," she added. The WWF would like to see more harmonisation of the 25 different allocation systems.

"We'll be fair, but tough," assured commission environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich.

She explained that experts are currently looking at the national allocation plans according to the guidelines but would not comment on the process as the results "are only half baked."

"It is our job to make the scheme work which is there to reduce the emissions," she said, adding that the EU would reach its Kyoto target by 2012 if Europe sticks to its policy tools already in place.

Next week, the commission will hold an infringement meeting to decide what to do with the countries that have failed to hand in their national allocation plan.

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