EU presses Greece on gases

Greece risks ending up before the European Court of Justice if it fails to come up with a reliable way of testing its pollution levels within the next three months and winning its way back into a United Nations carbon emissions trading program, European Union officials have told Kathimerini. Government officials yesterday insisted that they had the matter in hand following a UN decision to suspend Greece from a system allowing countries to trade greenhouse emissions with less industrialized nations in order to meet air pollution targets and curb global warming. «We have asked (UN inspectors) to come as soon as possible and see our monitoring system,» Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis told Skai Radio, insisting that improvements have been made to the Greek system this year. Kaloyiannis stressed that the UN suspension was only temporary. «Greece has not been ejected from the protocol,» he said. But the country will not be allowed to re-enter the scheme unless unless it improves its pollution measuring system to meet EU standards. «The optimistic scenario is that Greece will solve this problem in the next few months,» a spokesperson in Brussels told Kathimerini. But, he said, the Commission has two serious concerns. First, it does not want the EU’s overall contribution to the Kyoto Protocol – the international pact aimed at curbing the gases responsible for climate change – to be compromised by the poor performance of one member state. Second, it wants to soften the impact of Greece’s «bad example» on the message being conveyed by European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, a Greek himself, in negotiations with China and the USA, the world’s biggest polluters. Dimas had cast doubt on Greek efforts to measure and limit harmful emissions early this year, noting that Greece «is the only country in the European Union not to have convinced the United Nations that it has a credible system (to measure gases).»

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