Netherlands "threatens" EU climate deal

New government makes EU energy tax a condition for achieving Dutch climate gas target

The Netherlands' new three-party governing coalition has threatened to undermine the EU's hard-won "burden sharing" deal on greenhouse gas emissions cuts by raising again the prospect of conditionality over its own 6% reduction target.

In a policy paper adopted today after its recent election victory, the coalition says that the target is conditional on EU countries agreeing to introduce an energy tax by 2002. Such a tax would have to be "significant" the government says, and would have to apply to large as well as small energy users.

In the run-up to the June deal (ENDS Daily 17 June), Dutch environment minister Margaretha de Boer sought unsuccessfully to make the EU deal conditional on the introduction of EU-wide energy taxes. According to a UK government source involved in the negotiations, there was strong opposition from southern EU states in particular. He said it would be "pretty major" if the Dutch government decided to re-open the deal now and would not make it popular with other EU member states.

Dutch environmentalists have described the condition as a "serious threat" to the EU agreement and will be pressing the government for clarification. An official in the environment ministry said it was not possible to say now how seriously the government would treat the condition. It was a "very political question" she said, and the condition was just one of a package. Dutch industry groups have welcomed the attached conditions, saying that the 6% target is unachievable on the basis of economic growth predictions.

Other conditions to the target set by the government include implementation by the EU of measures to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency and to tackle emissions from specific sectors like transport and agriculture. It also wants to be able to use flexible mechanisms such as emissions trading and joint implementation to meet around half of its target.

In a related development, Ms de Boer revealed over the weekend that she would not be standing for office as environment minister again. Officially, she said she felt it would be good to have fresh blood in the post. But observers say shortly before the election she pinned her reputation on the emergence of a greener government policy, which has failed to materialise.

Environmental groups say the policy statement is not as green as they had been led to hope for given strong campaign statements particularly from the ruling socialist PvdA party. They are pleased by a pledge to double the current energy tax on householders and small businesses which was proposed in the country's third national environmental policy plan (ENDS Daily 6 February). But they say the overall budget allocated to the plan is inadequate.

Follow Up:
Dutch environment ministry , tel: +31 70 339 3939.

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