EU Court forces Commission to re-examine UK NAP

The UK Government is claiming a small victory in its legal case over emissions trading after the Court of First Instance has ruled that the Commission must consider the UK's amended national allocation plan and make a fresh decision on its compatibility with the EU Emissions Trading Directive's requirements.

The UK National Allocation Plan (NAP) – outlining the amounts of greenhouse gas that industrial installations can emit – was revised by its Government in October 2004 after its initial publication in January 2004 (see related story).

The revised version allowed for an extra 20 million allowances, or roughly 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It was the second time the plan had been watered down since its initial publication as the Government said that new calculations of the amount of carbon the country emitted had been “revised upwards”.

The Commission refused the amendment and the Government was later forced to back track and issue allocations based on the original NAP, but started legal proceedings in October this year to allow for the extra emissions (see related story).

The UK’s case centred on the fact that the UK was the only Member State to submit a provisional plan, which was based on interim projections and gave a provisional figure for the total cap on emissions for the first three years of the scheme. The UK claims it “made clear at the time that work on the projections was continuing, and could lead to further revision of the total cap.”

It was backed at the time by business groups such as the CBI who said it was right to hold out against the tighter NAP as this would handicap companies with onerous targets. Environmental groups, on the other hand, accused the Government of “signing a polluters’ charter”.

The ruling by the Court comes in the same week as Margaret Beckett, UK Environment Secretary, angered environmentalists by saying she is prepared to accept voluntary targets for greenhouse gas emissions, rather than the compulsory targets currently aimed for.

Speaking ahead of next week’s Montreal climate change summit Mrs Beckett told The Observer that it would be impossible to achieve consensus on compulsory targets internationally, and that: “Such an approach would be utterly destructive to any kind of agreement.”

Environmentalists argue that compulsory targets are the only way to tackle climate change. Last year, the OECD released a report showing that there were very few cases where voluntary approaches to environmental policy had actually improved the environment (see related story) and another calling for strengthened policies across the OECD to achieve environmental goals (see related story).

Mrs Beckett’s comments are likely to worry environmentalists further as she is acting as the UK and European negotiator in discussions on what countries will do when the current Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.

By David Hopkins

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