With the successful launch of the EU CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) on 1 January 2005, the European Commission will want to present the EU as a world leader in cutting global warming gases at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Montreal (COP-11).
The conference will officially kick-start negotiations on a future international regime to tackle climate change after 2012 and the expiry of targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol.
Highlighting its successes before heading off to Montreal, the Commission indicated that 230 million tonnes of CO2 have already been traded on the EU carbon market since January 2005, representing 3 to 4 billion euros. EU-15 countries have reduced their emissions by 1.7% since 1990 while achieving economic growth of 27%, the Commission pointed out. This is however still short of the 8% reduction target the EU-15 agreed to cut under the Kyoto Protocol.
The latest inventory report from the European Environment Agency showed that total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-15 went up by 1.3% in 2004 (EurActiv, 21 June 2005). The Commission described the figures as disappointing at the time. But Brussels said it remained confident that further measures, including the full implementation of the EU-ETS would help improve the situation. However, in a recent development, the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg dealt the Commission a serious blow by ruling that the UK was entitled to raise its CO2 emissions ceiling approved under the EU-ETS (EurActiv, 24 Nov. 2005). The court ruling could have serious implications for the Commission's ability to enforce the scheme, but Brussels said it had still not decided whether to appeal against the ruling.
European energy ministers on 1 December have called on the Commission to review the EU CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme "as soon as possible" in order to put it in line with policies aimed at boosting economic growth and competitiveness. In their conclusions on climate change and energy efficiency, the ministers invite the Commission to "table as soon as possible proposals, to make this scheme more effective while taking into account the need for promoting competitiveness and an affordable energy supply". Energy-intensive sectors such as the metal industry have repeatedly complained that lack of real competition in the electricity sector - combined with side-effects of the EU-ETS - have raised electricity prices, causing plant closures in some cases. The ministers invite the Commission to produce a set of "comprehensive and reliable data and ensure that remedies to possible market disturbances in sectors affected by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme are provided in good time".
A French official close to the negotiations told EurActiv that all member states agreed that new climate change measures proposed by the Commission should take full account of possible consequences for the economy and be based on an extensive cost-benefit analysis. Energy ministers are inviting the Commission to "consider in detail when developing its cost-benefit analysis of climate change measures the contribution that can be made by energy efficiency measures". They ask the Commission to ensure "energy efficiency is explicitly covered in its proposals on a revised EU sustainable development strategy and on the new European Climate Change Programme".
In the meantime, they urged the Commission to press on with the current draft energy services directive and to "move swiftly to implement" the eco-design directive. Positions: In a letter sent to energy ministers before the meeting, WWF said it is concerned that the Council debates tend to reflect "the overall ideological reluctance towards new legislation, including new community-wide targets" on energy efficiency. WWF said it is "alarmed that this present window of opportunity for cost-efficient climate and security of supply policy represented by the Draft Energy End-use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive will be closed, in case there are no ambitious binding targets and timetables for energy efficiency". Commission spokespeople were unavailable for comment.
Posted on 11th January 2006
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