ECONOMY

As deadline looms, no EU member has submitted CO2 emission plan

BRUSSELS – EU countries will wait until the last minute to submit plans for curbing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and know they face legal action if they fail to meet this week’s deadline, Europe’s environment chief said yesterday. All the EU’s 15 governments must send in their plans by tomorrow for distributing CO2 credits in their countries, as part of the EU’s scheme to launch emissions trading from next January. So far, none has submitted a formal plan. Around eight countries have published draft plans and are likely to hand in their official versions to Brussels on time. But several more are widely expected to miss the deadline. If they do, they would be breaking international law, according to the European Commission, which would be entitled to issue an «infringement letter» – a first warning of legal action. «I’m not surprised they are waiting until the last day,» said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. «But I was much more worried a few weeks ago, now I think we will manage.» «I don’t think this is a matter of bad will or bad faith. We will do all we can to help them,» she told reporters. Privately, Commission officials say it would be unrealistic to expect to receive all 15 plans by Wednesday, especially from Spain and Greece due to their recent changes of government. Wallstrom said no member state had yet requested extra time to meet the deadline and declined to be drawn about the possibility of launching legal action against laggards. «We know fairly well which countries are most advanced. The others are coming on, but more slowly. We will have to analyze that, when we see where they are (with their plans). Then we will have to decide how to act,» she said. «Hopefully, we will be able to avoid talking about infringements. But member states know what our role is.» The EU’s emissions scheme is the cornerstone of the bloc’s efforts to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce the emissions that scientists say cause global warming. The EU’s pioneering trading scheme will apply from 2005 and obliges energy-intensive companies in the oil refining, smelting, steel, cement, ceramics, glass and paper sectors to obtain special permits, or allowances, to emit carbon dioxide. Before this, the EU’s 15 governments must decide limits and how to allocate permits by sector, and company by company, in allocation plans that must be first approved by Brussels. Some of the larger states with influential power sectors, such as France and Germany, are ironing out the last difficulties in their plans, but there are doubts they will meet the deadline. France has said it will not be able to submit on time, while Germany’s plan may be delayed by bickering between ministries.