21st Sep 2021

Commission puts CO2 squeeze on Belgium and Netherlands

  • The EU executive is coming down hard on member states who over allocate pollution-permits (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission has told yet another two member states to toughen up national plans for cutting greenhouse gasses, as part of efforts to help the EU reach its Kyoto target on climate change in 2012.

Belgium and the Netherlands have both given their heavy industry too many pollution-allowances for 2008-2012, the commission said on Tuesday (16 January), ordering the two Benelux states to cut their allowances by seven and five percent respectively.

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As part of the EU's emission trading scheme (ETS), energy-intensive companies - such as the electricity and steel-making sector - are allocated allowances by their national governments for each tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) they may emit.

These can then be traded between companies, encouraging them to reduce their emissions by selling their allowances.

The scheme is the cornerstone of the bloc's effort to fight climate change by helping the bloc cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent below 1990-levels by 2012

In November, the commission already deemed too weak nine of the ten so-called "national allocation plans" received from a first group of member states.

Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia and Sweden were ordered to lower their allowances while the United Kingdom is the only country so far that has fulfilled the commission criteria.

"Today's decision reinforces the strong signal we gave with the first set of decisions...that Europe is fully committed to achieving its Kyoto targets and to making the emissions trading scheme a successful weapon for fighting climate change," EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement on Tuesday.


The EU executive is coming down hard on member states who over-allocate pollution permits as too many flood in and seriously undermine the European carbon market.

Prices on the climate exchange plummeted in May last year after it was revealed member states had polluted less in 2005 - in the first year of the first stage from 2005-2007 - than the ceiling set by the commission, leaving the market with more credits than it needed.

The national allocation plans (NAPs) of Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain still need to be assessed by the commission.

Brussels is proceeding with legal cases against Denmark and Hungary for having missed a 30 June deadline and still not having handed in their NAPs yet.

Last year, the European climate exchange traded with 362 million tonnes of carbon worth €7.2 billion.

Its cost-effective method of controlling pollution on a large scale, is being closely watched by other countries and regions wanting to set up a similar system.

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