“There was cautious optimism going into the Council of Ministers December meeting that an agreement would be reached,” a European Commission official told edie. The EC’s original proposal would have applied stricter emissions standards to new large combustion plants, including gas-fired turbines, but would not have applied to ‘existing’ plants built before 1987.

A row erupted when some countries sought to expand the proposal to include existing large combustion plants. In the end, even the EC’s original, more modest proposal was not agreed.

A report published by Ends Daily stated that the Finnish environment minister, Satu Hassi, believes the German environment minister deliberately blocked agreement. Hassi felt Germany’s unwillingness to accept anything less than full-scale inclusion of existing large combustion plants was a ploy to postpone agreement.

“I don’t think it’s worthwhile pointing the finger of blame at any one delegation,” said the EC official. “There were people on both sides of the issue who exchanged strong words.” The UK, Greece and Spain, in particular, resisted attempts to apply the Large Combustion Plants (LCP) directive to existing plants (defined as those built before 1987).

The EC is unsure what the next step will be. “There are some who feel that it might be best to look at the National Emissions Ceiling Directive proposal and try to make some progress on that,” admitted the EC official. “Then, perhaps go back to the LCP directive proposal and revise it based on the National Emissions Ceiling achievements.”

“It falls on the new presidency to decide whether to continue discussing the LCP proposal,” said the official.

Large combustion plants (generating more than 300MW) contribute 56% of the EU’s sulphur dioxide emissions and 19% of its nitrogen oxides emissions. Emissions return to land or fall on water, acting as acidifiers. The LCP directive is part of the EU’s anti-acidification strategy.

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