EU air quality law battle to recommence

Ministers approve first reading common positions of combustion plant, emission ceiling, directives

EU debate over two major air quality laws is set to recommence after the Council of Ministers approved first reading common positions on directives setting national emission ceilings (NECs) on four pollutants and introducing revised, tougher emission limits on large combustion plants (LCPs). All eyes will now be on the European Parliament to see whether it approves the deals, which were reached in June (ENDS Daily 22 June) but only formally passed last week after legal and linguistic scrutiny of the texts.

Under the ministerial common position, EU states have agreed to go part, but not all, the way towards the ceilings proposed by the European Commission. The agreement places ministers' willingness to cut emissions part way between the more ambitious Commission plan and the less ambitious cuts proposed by each EU country under the UN Gothenburg protocol. Both instruments cover emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia.

The parliament, which supported the Commission during the first reading, must now decide whether ministers have moved far enough. It must also decide whether to maintain its demand - already rejected by both Commission and Council - that air and maritime transport emissions be brought within the law's scope (ENDS Daily 15 March).

The revision of the combustion plants directive caused a row during the Finnish presidency of the EU last year when the Council split between factions led by the UK and Germany over how older installations should be dealt with (ENDS Daily 15 December 1999). The final agreement went further than the Commission's proposal, however, and the Parliament may be easier to satisfy on this directive.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111. See also short statements on the NECs directive and the LCPs directive, plus the original Commission proposals for NECs and LCPs.

Addition: 4/1/01: See also the full text of the common positions on national emission ceilings and large combustion plants.

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