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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“Slovakia gets set for legal action against Brussels over CO2 plan” is the title of an EUobserver, January 16, 2007 article by Renata Goldirova.

Slovakia looks set to provoke a legal row with the European Commission in a bid to avert Brussels’ proposal to slash the amount of carbon dioxide Slovak businesses can emit between 2008 and 2012.

“A 25-percent cut could harm the current industrial boom, especially after Slovakia closed down part of its nuclear power plant at the end of 2006, set to be replaced by coal-production [of electricity]”, environmental minister Jaroslav Izak told EUobserver after talks with environment commissioner Stavros Dimas on Monday (15 January).

In November last year, the commission accused Slovakia of handing in over-generous figures for it national plan to slash carbon pollution – as part of the EU’s emission trading scheme.

Brussels is now demanding that Bratislava reduce its carbon emissions by a quarter, from 40.3 million tonnes per year to 30.9 million tonnes.

But Bratislava is ready to fight this plan at the European Court of Justice, with Mr Izak saying “legal action is high on the agenda” ahead of a 24 January government meeting where a decision is due to be taken.

The EU executive has so far refused to bow to pressure from Bratislava to reconsider its proposal, as it could encourage other member states to get better deals as well.

“Member states are giving more pollution permits that industrial plants need”, a commission spokesperson said, adding “it undermines the basic economics of the bloc’s emissions trading scheme”.

So far, only the UK’s plan – out of ten national pollution-reducing plans for trading period of 2008-2012 evaluated by the European commission – fulfilled all necessary criteria.

Germany softens its tone:   Germany is also considering legal action over the amount of pollution it is being allowed to emit, with economics minister Michael Glos saying the EU plan would hurt German competitiveness.

But Berlin – which currently holds the EU presidency – on Monday played down the prospect of a court case by pointing to a letter sent by environment minister Sigmar Gabriel to the European Commission on 28 December. “The letter has signalled Germany’s intention to engage in negotiations”, a German diplomat told EUobserver, adding that “talks are expected to be concluded by the end of January, while legal option is currently not on the table”.

Europe’s biggest economy has been asked to lower its carbon emissions by six percent to 453.1 million tonnes per year, an amount which Berlin considers “costly and harmful”.

More plans rejected:

Meanwhile, three more member states – Belgium, Cyprus and the Netherlands – are expected to be criticised as the European Commission prepares to release a second set of decisions on national allocation plans today (16 January).

According to a European Commission official, all three member states have allotted more permits to pollute than industrial plants need and will be formally requested to cut CO2 quotas.

Under the EU’s emission trading scheme, which covers energy-intensive business sectors such as electricity generation and steel-making, companies are being allocated allowances for each tonne of carbon dioxide they may emit. These can be traded between companies, encouraging them to reduce their emissions by selling their allowances.

The trading system is seen as the cornerstone of EU efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the international Kyoto Protocol against climate change.

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