Chemicals firms could sign an innovative voluntary contract by the end of the year to try to use less energy, as a way of heading off the threat of special taxes.
Trade minister Angela Eagle is involved in negotiations with the Chemical Industries Association. She said that while a collective undertaking would reduce the chances of a carbon tax being levied, `we cannot rule out such taxes altogether’ – which might anyway be required by the European Union.
Eagle was speaking in London at a ceremony to mark the CIA’s fifth 1996 Responsible Care survey and the publication of a series of chemical industry guides, Pathfinder, on how to reduce energy consumption.
The guides were developed by Responsible Energy, a joint initiative by the Government, the CIA, and the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
Eagle warned that the Environment Agency, that recently came down heavily on ICI for a number of incidents at its Runcorn and North Tees sites, and at its Greatham factory near Hartlepool, had been instructed to take a tougher line on polluters.
The minister did praise the chemical industry for taking what she called a proactive role on responsible energy use and reducing pollution, but added that the regulations would be strongly enforced.