MEPs in U-turn on climate emissions trading

Parliamentary committee abandons Kyoto trading caps, calls for "maximum flexibility"

The European Parliament's environment committee today called for industrialised nations to have "the maximum degree of flexibility" in meeting greenhouse gas limitations required under the Kyoto protocol. If carried by the plenary, the proposal will completely reverse earlier Parliamentary demands that commitments should be met mainly through domestic measures.

The call for flexibility is contained in a draft resolution on climate change in the run-up to the next meeting of parties to the UN climate change convention due in Buenos Aires in November. Members of the Parliament's environment committee approved the draft today at their first meeting after the summer break.

Implementation of the Kyoto protocol will be high on the agenda in Buenos Aires and a key issue will be what proportion of limitation commitments can be met through "flexible mechanisms," such as trading of emissions quotas with other parties.

EU policy makers and parliamentarians have been generally hostile to flexible mechanisms, which were only included in the protocol under heavy pressure from countries like the USA and Australia. In a resolution passed in February, the European Parliament said that flexible mechanisms should be considered "'as an addition to' and not 'instead of' the existing commitments made on emission reduction".

At today's meeting, Green MEPs tried to maintain this line. But an amendment calling for the EU to commit to meeting no more than 25% of its Kyoto commitments through flexible mechanisms was voted down by the committee.

Portuguese conservative MEP Carlos Pimenta said the Parliament's resolution should not endanger the chances of the US Congress - which is against any cap on flexible mechanisms - ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Calling for such a restriction, he said, would be "counter productive".

Committee chairman, Ken Collins, called for a moderate, pragmatic resolution so that parliament's voice should have an impact at Buenos Aires, rather than be ignored as extremist and irrelevant. At previous international negotiations, including Kyoto, the Parliament had been ignored because its stance was too "purist," he said.

European environmental groups will not be happy with the committee's new line on flexibility mechanisms. One group today expressed shock at what it described as MEPs' "total turnabout" on the issue.

Meanwhile, EU government representatives preparing for the Buenos Aires meeting met yesterday but made little progress on the flexible mechanism issue, according to sources.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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