EU power firms back UN/ECE air protocol

Eurelectric calls on Commission to reign in ambitions for national emission ceilings directive

European electricity producers have called on the EU to abandon its attempt to win emissions cuts for key air pollutants even larger than those recently accepted by European countries under a UN protocol.

The demand will incense EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström, who refused to sign the UN/ECE "multi-pollutant" protocol claiming targets taken on by some EU countries were too weak (ENDS Daily 30 November). But power firm association Eurelectric says that exceeding the UN/ECE emissions limits would bring only a minuscule environmental benefit while costing over euros 7.5bn per year.

The multi-pollutant protocol (ENDS Daily 2 September) is a parallel initiative to the EU's draft "national emission ceilings" directive proposed in the summer (ENDS Daily 9 June). Both set maximum national emissions limits to be achieved by 2010 for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. Together, these are the main contributors to the environmental problems of acidification, eutrophication and ozone pollution.

Overall, the EU directive proposes emissions ceilings 12% stricter than those agreed under the UN/ECE protocol. There is considerable variation in the stringency of the targets depending on the country and the pollutant.

The focus of Eurelectric's position is acidification, which is the environmental problem that the power industry is most implicated in through emissions of sulphur dioxide and, to a lesser extent, nitrogen oxides. The association claims that Europe could achieve more and more rapidly by supporting the UN/ECE protocol rather than by going beyond it.

Adopting the UN/ECE limits, it says, would achieve the vast bulk of the environmental improvements being sought. They would be agreed rapidly, so avoiding further delay. They would also provide a legislative basis for the protocol "that is currently lacking," enabling EU countries to be held to account, and would allow cost-effective strategies to be determined on a wider basis, particularly in relation to the accession countries, all of which are also signatories to the UN/ECE protocol.

Follow Up:
Eurelectric, tel: +32 2 515 1010. References: Eurelectric position paper.

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