Government threatened with court for 'soft' targets on greenhouse gas reduction
- Government threatened with court for 'soft' targets on greenhouse gas
By Stephen Castle in Brussels and Marie Woolf and Colin Brown
15 February 2005
Government threatened with court for 'soft' targets on greenhouse gas
Power firms pay price of carbon row
Leading article: Kyoto alone is not enough to tackle climate change
Government plans to curb greenhouse gases are "illegal" because they are
"not tough enough", the European Commission warned yesterday.
Brussels accused the Government of reneging on a formal agreement and
increasing the ceiling for CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by millions of
tonnes. It threatened to take the Government to court unless it backs
The warning follows the publication of proposed allocations for a scheme
under which companies can trade permits to pollute, while keeping the
national quota stable. Each company has a cap on its emissions. Those
whose emissions arebelow the permitted level may sell the difference to
firms that want to exceed theirs.
Britain's latest proposals would raise the quota by 9.8m tonnes over the
level submitted by Whitehall last April, and agreed by the European
Commission as part of Britain's National Allocation Plan last July.
The row is deeply embarrassing for Tony Blair, who identified the battle
against global warming as one of his priorities for Britain's G8 and EU
presidencies this year. It comes just before the Kyoto protocol on global
warming comes into force tomorrow.
Yesterday the Prime Minister was accused of "sending the wrong signal"
over climate change, and caving in to pressure from industry.
The shadow Environment Minister, Tim Yeo, said: "The Government is going
to miss its own targets on climate change. They were right to support the
trading emissions scheme, but they haven't followed it up with the
"Blair doesn't appear to be using his leadership with President George
Bush to get the American administration on side, despite the fact they
are significant contributors to carbon emissions."
The Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Norman Baker, claimed that
the Prime Minister was "squirming" over climate change while "making
grandiose speeches on an international stage".
Friends of the Earth said: "The Government is wrong to push the European
Commission to accept a more generous cap on our emissions."
Business leaders, however, said Britain was right "to hold out" against
the European Commission. Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI,
said the UK had made "a sensible response to what has been a difficult
The quota put forward by the Government last April - and agreed by the EC
in July - was to emit no more than 736 million tonnes of CO2 over the
next three years. The new proposal is for 756 million tonnes, a rise of
almost 3 per cent.
The EC argues that if the July ceiling is exceeded it can take the UK to
the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Barbara Helfferich,
spokeswoman for the EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, said that
the Commission " will consider as illegal" any increase on the April
The European Commission believes that if it concedes to the UK's request,
other countries will ask for similar treatment, and the entire trading
scheme could unravel.
In a letter to Liberal Democrat MEPs defending the policy, Denis
MacShane, the Minister for Europe, said that the original plan had
"clearly indicated that the total number of allowances to be allocated
was subject to revision", and added that there was "a balance to be
struck to protect UK competitiveness".
All EU countries have drafted their plans except the Czech Republic,
Italy, Poland and Greece, which are finalising their proposals.
'On climate change Blair is a serial adulterer'
Carbon emissions have gone up in the UK since 1997 and the Government has
admitted it is not on course to meet its promise of reducing carbon
dioxide pollution by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Stephen Tindale, director of Greenpeace UK, said: "The Government's
policy on emissions is completely pathetic. Tony Blair says being Prime
Minister is about having a personal relationship with the British people.
On climate change he is a serial adulterer. The record of the British
Government is worse than the Tories'."
The Green Party's principal speaker, Keith Taylor, said: "It is typical
of the Prime Minister to pay lip service to the real issue of climate
change one week and then completely blow his cover the next, when he ...
selects one of the most environmentally damaging forms of transport - a
helicopter - to travel between his pledge announcements."
The Prime Minister stands accused of promoting policies that will damage
the environment - including resisting tough EU targets on tackling
Yesterday's decision to raise the quota for emissions is the latest
disagreement with Brussels over EU attempts to bring in tougher targets
on global warming. Last month his commitment to climate change was
questioned after Britain tried to block an EU-wide target to cut
greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 per cent.
Mr Blair has, however, indicated that getting George Bush to sign up to
the Kyoto protocol is a key aim of Britain's presidency of the G8.
And a new figure in government may be emerging to take over the drive for
a cleaner future. Next month Gordon Brown will make a major speech on the
need to tackle global warming at a conference of world energy and