Germany pushes EU emissions trading deal

Ministerial seen as "last chance" to agree common approach on Kyoto mechanisms

The EU is set to agree a common position on a key rule for implementing the Kyoto climate change protocol when environment ministers meet in Brussels on Thursday.

Climate change will top an otherwise light-weight one-day quarterly meeting. Ministers will try to clarify the EU's position on the use of so-called Kyoto mechanisms in meeting greenhouse gas emission limitation targets. Their conclusions will dictate the bloc's negotiating position at a meeting between Kyoto protocol signatories in Bonn in June.

So far, the EU has pushed for there to be a "concrete ceiling" on the use of the mechanisms. Otherwise, it has argued, countries could use emissions trading or "joint implementation" projects with third countries to avoid cutting their own emissions. Some other protocol parties oppose this and want to allow unrestricted use of the mechanisms.

As Thursday's meeting is the last EU Environment Council before the Bonn meeting, it is the ministers' last chance to come up with an agreed definition of concrete ceiling before proposing the idea to other parties. After months of diplomatic discussions (ENDS Daily 28 January), the Germany presidency will now present ministers with three possible definitions.

The first is a formula to calculate the amount of greenhouse gas reductions that each country would be allowed to achieve through the mechanisms. Figures to be inserted into the equation have been left open for discussion by the ministers. Theoretically, the approach could be used to limit a country's use of the mechanisms to 50% of its reduction target. Germany is in favour of this option, according to sources, along with Denmark, Spain, Austria and Luxembourg.

The second definition simply states that any country must not use the mechanisms to account for more emissions reductions than are achieved through domestic action, but that this should be assessed after the commitment period. The final option states simply that the use of the mechanisms "must not exceed a level depending on the progress made by that party in the implementation of domestic action".

At least one country is likely to argue against all the options. According to EU sources, the Netherlands is arguing that none of them meets criteria agreed last October, when ministers decided the ceiling should be defined "in quantitative and qualitative terms based on equitable criteria" (ENDS Daily 6 October 1998). It suggests that EU diplomats continue to look for a better definition that would link a country's ceiling to its energy efficiency.

Although there is some support for putting off the decision further, the German presidency is believed to be determined to decide the matter on Thursday.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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