MEPs back tighter EU air emissions ceilings

Parliament environment committee reports support Commission targets, doubt high cost estimates

Two European Parliament rapporteurs have supported European Commission attempts to persuade EU countries to make deep cuts in emissions of pollutants causing acid rain and ground-level ozone formation. The MEPs presented draft reports on the draft national emission ceilings and ozone directives to the assembly's environment committee yesterday. The Commission's proposals were "challenging but attainable," the two MEPs said, claiming that projected costs had been "overestimated heavily".

The Commission wants EU member states to make cuts of up to 78% by 2010 in releases of sulphur dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. The cuts are designed to halve the area of the EU threatened by acidification and restrict exceedences of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended limit for ambient ozone levels in air to 20 days per year. A Commission official told the committee the ceilings were the cheapest overall solution for the EU and would punish those countries which had achieved little reduction so far.

Reluctance by some member states to accept the targets led EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström to refuse to sign a similar international protocol last year (ENDS Daily 30 November 1999). A recent Commission analysis showed that the less stringent cuts to be made under the protocol would fall far short of ozone reduction targets in some areas (ENDS Daily 4 November 1999).

In her first reading report on the national emission ceilings directive, socialist MEP Riitta Myller endorsed the proposed cuts. She said it was "highly likely" the projected euros 7.5bn cost of the proposal had been overestimated. In particular, it did not account for emissions cuts expected as a result of Kyoto protocol climate change commitments, she said.

A Commission official told ENDS Daily that most countries had failed to provide details of future energy scenarios. A tentative calculation had shown that costs would be about 40% lower if Kyoto commitment measures were implemented, the official said, adding that projected costs were much lower than average for Denmark, the only country to have provided figures so far.

Reporting on the ozone proposal, Liberal MEP Chris Davies supported the Commission's interim target to reduce exceedences of the WHO level, but insisted the long-term objective - never to exceed concentrations of 120 micrograms per cubic metre - should be met by 2020. The Commission considers the task so demanding that it has not proposed a compliance date. Mr Davies said he believed the targets would undergo "radical changes" as a result of member state resistance to the proposals.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111. The reports will appear on the parliament's web page shortly.

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