Laggard states could miss out on emissions trading system, EU warns

BRUSSELS – The European Commission moved forward with plans to create an EU-wide emissions trading system yesterday by approving five national schemes but rejecting parts of plans presented by Austria, Germany and Britain. The plans of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden were accepted unconditionally, while the Commission sent warning letters to Greece and Italy for not submitting emissions trading plans at all, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told a news conference. EU governments have outlined ways to cut industrial emissions of carbon dioxide as part of an EU emissions trading scheme due to start in January. The scheme forms part of the bloc’s efforts to meet commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement aimed at slowing global warming. «The European Union will continue to be at the forefront in terms of climate change,» Wallstrom said. The Commission has received a total of 18 plans so far, including those from Spain and France, which were submitted on Tuesday. Half of the 10 new EU member states have turned in plans, but Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and Poland have not. Wallstrom said the Commission would evaluate the next batch of submitted plans by the end of the summer or September. The three countries whose plans were partially rejected on Wednesday must turn in the required information by September, she said. At that time the Commission will also consider taking legal action against any remaining new member states that have not turned in their proposals. The Commission said final written warnings had been sent to 11 of the old 15 EU member states for not having transposed into national law the EU directive on emissions trading. The four countries that will not receive warning letters are Austria, Germany, France and Sweden. EU blasts Greece, Italy Wallstrom said Germany, Austria and Britain had agreed to make the changes required by the EU executive for their national plans and she blasted Greece and Italy for being tardy. «What Italy and Greece risk is, of course, that their companies will not be able to trade,» she said. The EU scheme involves some 12,000 installations across the EU including power stations, steel-makers and other energy-intensive industries. The plans set caps on how much CO2 companies can emit. Those exceeding their limits will have to buy carbon allowances from firms that do not. Greenpeace said on Wednesday that the plans accepted on Wednesday set a bad precedent. «The industry was worried that its competitiveness was going to be damaged by the emissions trading scheme. Now it’s obvious that competitiveness is not going to be damaged and at the same time the scheme will not be bringing down emissions,» said Greenpeace’s Mahi Sideridou. Germany said the Commission’s decision would encourage the modernization of the nation’s power plants. Britain, which was told to make some technical modifications to its plan, said it had concerns about the robustness and transparency of the Commission’s process for assessing individual countries’ proposals.