EU: Environment Ministers to debate lower national emissions ceilings

European environment ministers face a last chance to bring leadership to a lacklustre international emissions reduction protocol, as they decide on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants at the next Environment Council meeting on 12 October.


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Their decision will form the basis for the EU’s stance on the UNECE draft protocol on national air emissions ceilings that is due to be adopted in Gothenburg (Sweden) on 30 November 1999 and signed the following day.

The unofficial draft protocol can be accessed on: http://www.unece.org/env/wgs. The emissions ceilings indicated in the annex of this document may be adjusted by individual governments to higher ambition levels, i.e. more stringent obligations, until 13 October 1999, a UNECE spokesman told edie. This deadline was set to allow European environment ministers time to agree on more ambitious plans, although it is hoped that other countries will also do so.

“We certainly hope that countries will come up with some further reductions and hope for some political leadership that will bring about such moves”, a UNECE spokesman told edie. “I can also confirm that the ceilings agreed at the moment fall well behind the ambition level that was agreed in the scientific assessment (the integrated assessment modelling) that provided the basis for the negotiations. The ceilings, if they do not change, will not deliver the reductions in acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone that were targeted at the outset”.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) have decried , “a clear lack of EU leadership” saying that for the 15 EU member States, the estimated “extra” reductions are only 1 per cent for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3), 3 per cent for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 4 per cent for sulphur dioxide (SO2).

According to EEB and T&E, the commitments made so far as too modest to achieve the needed reduction of risk and damage. “For most countries, the emission ceilings for 2010 are very close to the emission levels that are expected to result from already existing legislation and commitments (the so-called reference scenario).

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