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Government threatened with court for 'soft' targets on greenhouse gas reduction

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Government threatened with court for soft targets on greenhouse gas reduction By Stephen Castle in Brussels and Marie Woolf and Colin Brown 15 February 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 15, 2005
      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
      necessary action.

      "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
      climate change.

      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
      environment leaders.
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