Industry calls for voluntary approach to greenhouse emissions reduction

European industry associations have called on the European Commission to favour voluntary agreements rather than regulatory or tax-led approaches as the main policy tool for reducing industry greenhouse gas emissions.

Agreements supplemented by flexible mechanisms such as emissions trading “should remove any need to further regulate or tax European Industry’s greenhouse gas emissions,” claims Unice, the European employers’ federation, in a position paper on how the EU should respond to the challenge set by the Kyoto protocol, delivered at a workshop organised by the Commission’s Industry Directorate, DGIII.

Calling on agreements already in place and delivering results in France, Germany and the Netherlands, Lars Hjorth of the cement producers’ association, Cembureau, said that through agreements, inefficiencies could be reduced and greater use could be made of waste as a fuel. Regulatory approaches based on absolute emissions reductions targets, he added, would merely restrict potential growth.

Francesco Balocco of CEFIC, the European chemical industry association, highlighted the agreement that the European car manufacturers association, ACEA, struck recently with the Commission. The deal, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by 25% by 2008, was hailed by Austrian Environment Minister, Martin Bartenstein, as “the most wide ranging and most important voluntary environmental agreement with industry the EU has ever concluded”.

Environmental group Climate Network Europe (CNE) was alone at the workshop in voicing strong reservations over voluntary agreements, claiming that they would not achieve the emissions reductions required. The group urged governments to maintain the option of command and control policies.

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