Europe targets emissions

The European Commission this week announced a package of targets and measures aimed at cutting EU emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 20 per cent by 2020. The announcement also confirms a specific 10 per cent target for biofuels.

Targets will be increased to 30 per cent when a new UN global climate change agreement is reached.

The measures are intended to increase the use of renewable energy in each country and will set legally enforceable targets for governments to achieve them. Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, said the proposals would provide a unique business opportunity for thousands of European companies.

A biofuels target of 10 per cent has been for each member state to ensure consistency in transport fuel specifications and availability. To counter concerns about the sustainability of biofuel production, the Commission has also set out criteria including ensuring biofuels sold in the EU have emission savings of at least 35 per cent compared with fossil fuels.

Included in the measures is a thorough reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which has been met with a cool reception from the Chemical Industries Association (CIA).

Calling for greater certainty and understanding for energy intensive businesses the CIA urged the UK government to support harmonised EU rates for auctioning emissions allowances and voiced concern over environment secretary, Hilary Ben’s call for flexibility to set independent levels of auctioning for individual member states.

‘We are disappointed that the proposals postpone decisions on the treatment of industry until 2011 if the UN process is unsuccessful in delivering a post-Kyoto emissions agreement,’ said Nick Sturgen, head of climate change and energy for the CIA. ‘Sectors like chemicals, that are energy intensive and exposed to international competition, need reassurance that they will be shielded from the full cost of a unilateral EU move to auctioning.

‘Decisions on investment in new plant and innovation require long-term predictability with clear assurances that there will be a sustainable business environment under the revised EU ETS.

‘There are likely to be an increased number of UK chemical sites within the scheme after 2012, so a level playing field within the EU is essential. In the UK we already have additional conflicting climate change instruments we must not be at further competitive disadvantage.’

Meanwhile the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) welcomed the changes and re-stated their pledge to reduce greenhouse gases.

‘The inclusion of aviation in the EU-wide ETS is a move in the right direction towards a fully international scheme,’ said Ian Godden SBAC chief executive. ‘Such a programme should recognise improved environmental performance in aviation and act as an inspiration across the globe.

‘Aviation is determined to address the demands of its customers for greener air travel. We have already set ourselves ambitious targets and are determined to meet them.

‘Calls from environmental groups to penalise aviation are counter-productive. The £2.5bn per year that the industry invests in research and development will deliver improvements much more quickly than the punitive and dogmatic demands to restrict or heavily tax air travel.’