EU launches new drive to cut greenhouse gases

The European Commission has launched a new EU climate change programme with the promise of new emission-cutting policy proposals in around a year.

At the programme's opening conference in Brussels on Monday environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said early experiences from the EU's carbon emission trading scheme have "encouraged us to look at the potential of other market-based mechanisms".

Three new EU working groups will assess and recommend policy options to mitigate emissions: in the aviation sector, in the non-HGV road transport sector and through carbon capture and storage.

A fourth group will examine the best ways to adapt to climate change.

A separate working group will also review policies brought under the first climate change programme (ECCP). "At the time, many of these were seen as very ambitious, but five years later it is clear that the EU has delivered. Nearly all of the announced measures are now in place," Mr Dimas told the conference.

Swedish MEP Anders Wijkman called for more integration of EU climate measures into economic policy. "We should use the transformation of the energy and transport sectors a lever in the Lisbon strategy," said Mr Wijkman, the European parliament's rapporteur on climate policy.

Tony Long of environment group WWF said it was time for the EU to "redouble its leadership and gain maximum advantage for its businesses to lead new technologies" that will reduce emissions. Mr Long announced a new WWF report showing how energy demand can be cut by 20% and greenhouse emissions by 33% within 15 years.

Christian Egenhofer of think-tank Ceps said the EU should clarify whether the new policies will aim at yielding emission cuts in the first Kyoto period (up to 2012) over longer time horizons.

Policy recommendations might differ depending on the answer. He also urged a stronger focus on "consumer interests and not producer interests" when developing policies.

Business speakers gave the new plan a cool reception. Nick Campbell of Unice asked why the EU "always needs to rush things," referring to the six- to nine-month timetable of the working groups.

The EU should first thoroughly review existing ECCP measures, such as imminent f-gas legislation which "will have little impact on emissions but will greatly increase costs".

Jean-Marie Chandelle of cement lobby Cembureau also called for reform of the EU's emission trading scheme (ETS). Speaking on behalf of energy-intensive industry sectors, Mr Chandelle said the structure of EU power markets meant the ETS was crippling their businesses, Mr Chandelle said.

"All options, including dropping the ETS as it is, should be considered," he said.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily.



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