EU air emission ceilings study published

Officials suggest analysis behind draft directive overplay costs of controls, underplay benefits

The European Commission today released the economic study underpinning its controversial proposals to set national emission ceilings (NECs) for four key air pollutants that cause acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone formation (ENDS Daily 9 June 1999).

EU environment ministers are expected to agree the proposals later this year. Last week, the European Parliament's environment committee backed the Commission's proposed ceilings at its first reading (ENDS Daily 24 February), but industry and some southern EU member states have opposed them (ENDS Daily 16 December 1999) (ENDS Daily 12 October 1999).

Carried out by consultants IIASA of Austria and AEA Technology of the UK, the study compares the costs and benefits of different emission ceilings representing high, medium and low ambition against a reference scenario based on expected reductions without further EU legislation. It concludes that benefits "appear likely" to exceed costs for all three scenarios.

The Commission has chosen to pursue the medium ambition scenario under which costs would amount to euros 7.5bn annually, 13% more than the cost of implementing currently adopted legislation. The benefits of meeting the proposal's targets would vary between euros 17bn and 32bn, depending on how improvements in health are measured.

A Commission official said today that the study had probably overestimated costs and underestimated benefits. On costs, it only considered expensive "end-of-pipe" methods of reducing emissions, and did not include "post-Kyoto" energy scenarios. On benefits, it did not include anticipated improvement in the state of ecosystems.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; "Economic Evaluation of a Directive on National Emission Ceilings for Certain Atmospheric Pollutants," Part A (cost-effectiveness) and {Part B} ({benefits}).

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