UK releases allocations despite legal action from EU

The Government has released a revised list of installation level allocations for the EU emissions trading scheme despite the fact that the European Commission has refused this plan permission to go ahead, saying it is far too lenient.

The UK National Allocation Plan (NAP) was revised in October last year (see previous story) after its initial publication in January 2004. The revised version allowed for an extra 20 million allowances – or roughly 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Defra insisted the plan was legal but it was soon refused by the Commission as it was not in line with the conditions set for the first approved plan. The EU executive warned it could take legal action against Britain in the European Court of Justice.

In a tit-for-tat response, Britain said it would “take steps to protect its legal position.” However, it did give some ground and said, if the Commission refuses the revised plan, then the power generation sector would be given fewer allowances.

The legal shenanigans have led to both praise and criticism of the Government’s position.

The CBI released a statement defending the Government’s position, saying it was right to hold out against the EC challenge as it would handicap companies with onerous targets. CBI Director General Sir Digby Jones said: “This is a sensible response to what has become a difficult position. Business backs the Government to the hilt in its determination to stick to the revised allocation plan and the Government is right to clarify its legal options.”

In stark contrast, Friends of the Earth Campaigner Bryony Worthington said: “The Government is wrong to continue to push the European Commission to accept a more generous cap on our emissions. The Government has identified a back-up plan if they fail to get agreement from the Commission, but they should be implementing this now. The power sector can afford to take a much tougher cap and this will help us get closer to our 20% carbon dioxide emissions reductions target by the end of the decade. They need all the help they can get.”

The spat comes just five months before the start of the UK presidency of the EU, a role Tony Blair said he would use to push for “a breakthrough” on climate change, and in the same week that the Kyoto Protocol finally came into force.

By David Hopkins

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