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24th Jul 2021

Brussels hints at rejection of weak green plans

EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas has hinted he might reject some member states' plans on reducing carbon emissions under the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) - the bloc's main tool in the fight against climate change.

"The fact that plans submitted so far propose caps in most cases exceeding verified emissions for 2005 is disappointing," Mr Dimas said on Thursday (9 November).

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  • The man behind the Stern report, Nicholas Stern (l) met with environment commissioner Dimas (r) on Thursday (Photo: EUobserver)

"The commission cannot allow the credibility of this crucial and innovative policy instrument to be undermined. We will be tough in our assessment of the national plans, but we will also be fair," Mr Dimas said at a joint commission and environment group WWF press conference in Brussels.

The ETS - where industrial polluters can buy and sell pollution allowances - was launched in 2005 as the cornerstone of EU efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the 1997 international Kyoto Protocol.

Brussels is set to assess governments' plans to allocate allowances to firms at the end of this month and it may reject those plans that it believes are too lenient.

EU countries were obliged to put forward their national allocation plans (NAPs) this summer for the second period of the trading scheme from 2008-2012.

But the commission has now found that most of the EU countries that filed their allocation plans for this second period have granted too many emissions permits, after last year already issuing more quotas than actually used by polluters.

'No more business as usual'

Mr Dimas' comments came after environmental group WWF on the same day called on the commission to be tough on member states which undermine the ETS.

"Weak national allocation plans submitted by member states - such as Germany, Poland, France and Greece - must be rejected," WWF said on Thursday (9 November).

Mr Dimas signed a statement by WWF and leading European economists calling on the continuation and strengthening of the European climate exchange.

"We [...] believe that it is important for the European Union to continue its efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions by continuing and strengthening the European emission trading scheme," the statement said.

The commission last month took steps towards legal action against Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain for ignoring a June deadline to submit their national allocation plans.

Finland, Portugal and Slovenia have since then handed in their NAPs while Austria, Italy and Spain have sent Brussels a draft.

Economists back EU scheme

Despite the ongoing trouble with the ETS, economists signing the common statement with WWF supported the scheme.

"Emissions trading schemes are fundamentally good instruments," said Cambridge University professor and economist Michael Grubb.

"They make sense environmentally because they set caps on our emissions and [economically] because they enable companies to hunt around and seek the cheapest ways of cutting emissions," he told journalists at the press conference.

But he added that "what is a very effective and efficient instrument in theory risks being undermined by inadequate implementations in Europe."

He said that Italy and Spain stood out for making a serious effort but that too many others contradict Europe's claim to lead on climate change.

Meanwhile, Mr Dimas will next week join the about 6,000 delegates attending the current two-week UN conference on climate change in Nairobi, Kenya.

Climate change climbed high on the international political agenda last week after the launch of a report by UK economist Nicholas Stern warning of looming environmental catastrophe that could cost the world up to 20 percent of its GDP.

"Europe is a leader on making policies on climate change" - in particular on carbon trading through the ETS, said Mr Stern after meeting with Mr Dimas in Brussels on Thursday.

According to British expert, EU climate exchange is a fundamental basis for making process on climate change. He said he hoped that a post-2012 ETS period would include "both ambitious goals in its targets" and more countries from across the world.

EU falls behind on green targets

New figures released on Thursday have revealed that the EU is falling far short of reaching its emissions targets under the international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.

Brussels examines post-Kyoto options

The European Commission is looking into ways to continue cutting greenhouse gasses post-Kyoto by improving the bloc's main tool in the fight against climate change - the EU emissions trading scheme.

Brussels to take legal action against EU states on lack of CO2 plans

Brussels is set to take legal action against nine EU member states for having failed to present the European Commission with plans on how they will cut their greenhouse gasses between 2008 and 2012 – an important part of the EU strategy to reach its Kyoto commitments.

EU states spoiling emissions trading scheme, WWF says

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, warns the environment group WWF.

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