Industry calls for EU climate agreements

Voluntary commitments could replace need for regulation, say EU trade associations

A range of major European industry associations yesterday urged the European Commission to make voluntary agreements the main policy tool for reducing industry greenhouse gas emissions. At a workshop organised by the Commission's industry directorate (DGIII), the cement, chemicals, steel and energy industries each called for agreements to form the basis of the EU policy rather than regulatory approaches or tax increases.

The European employers' federation Unice led the charge, presenting a position paper on how the EU should respond to the challenge set by the Kyoto protocol. In the paper, it claims that agreements supplemented by Kyoto flexible mechanisms such as emissions trading, "should remove any need to further regulate or tax European industry's greenhouse gas emissions". Klaus Kohlhase, chairman of Unice's climate working group, told the workshop: "My plea to policy makers and governments is, please understand that [agreements] are important and make them an integral part of reaching the targets of the Kyoto Protocol."

Francesco Balocco of the European chemical industry association Cefic pointed to the agreement that the European car makers association Acea recently finalised with the European Commission (ENDS Daily 6 October). This should be an example for other industry sectors to follow, he said.

Lars Hjorth of the cement producers' association Cembureau said national agreements on energy efficiency in the cement industry were already delivering results in three EU countries - France, Germany and the Netherlands. He said that the sector could reduce inefficiencies and make greater use of waste as a fuel through agreements. Regulatory approaches based on absolute emissions reductions targets would only restrict the industry's potential growth, he said.

An official from the European Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) responded that the Commission was interested in exploring Acea-style deals with other industry sectors. "I think that it is very clear that the Community is very positive when it comes to negotiated agreements, Jos Delbeke said. "Acea is a good example. We would hope that, in the area of negotiated agreements, we can progress with other sectors as well."

Mr Delbeke stressed that the Commission did not agree that agreements could replace other forms of regulation. But he assured industry that the Commission took a "very pragmatic attitude" and told the industry representatives: "If you can deliver then we will be very much looking forward to going through the case with you."

Only environmental group Climate Network Europe (CNE) maintained strong reservations over the use of agreements. CNE's Stephan Ramesohl warned that they would not achieve the absolute emissions reductions required under the Kyoto protocol, and urged governments to maintain the option of command and control policies.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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