EC urged to hold back on anti-pollution push

The European Commission is facing calls from industry groups to delay the launch of its controversial carbon-emission trading scheme.

The European Commission is facing calls from industry groups to delay the launch of its controversial carbon-emission trading scheme.

The initiative, which is aimed at cutting pollution, is set to begin on 1 January. But Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group which represents heavy industry in the UK, believes the EC runs the risk of setting up a "botched" scheme if it goes ahead with the timetable.

"The EU must get it right," he said. "No one is suggesting the scheme should not start until 2008, but if it won't be ready for 1 January next year, it would be better to delay than go ahead with a botched scheme.

"The Government has already called the timetable 'challenging' which in Government circles is sometimes a euphe-mism for not being possible."

Last week, the Government finally published its "national allocation plan" which sets the level of carbon emissions industry must achieve. Under the plan submitted to Brussels, which was over a month late, industry will have to cut the 1990 level of emissions by 15.2 per cent by 2010.

The original draft plan was criticised by industry for getting some of the data wrong. It had set an even higher target of a 16.3 per cent cut in emissions.

UK companies are worried that they will be put at a disadvantage compared to their continental rivals. They must make by far the largest cuts.

Italy is the worst offender. Under its plans, companies will be able to increase their emissions from 2000 levels by almost 8 per cent by 2010. Austria is also allowing industry to increase emissions. The overall UK target is higher than its commitment under the Kyoto Protocol, where it agreed to cut 1990 emissions by 12.5 per cent.

Under the scheme, companies which do not take up their carbon allocations can sell the "credits" to companies which have exceeded their allocation.

The timetable for meeting the 1 January deadline has already slipped. Only five of the 15 EU member states submitted their draft plans to the EC by the 31 March deadline. The 10 new EU members are supposed to file their own plans this month but France will not submit its plan until June.

Then the EC, together with member countries, will scrutinise the plans to make sure the scheme is workable.

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