The British government is calling for a 20% increase in the number of CO2 reductions EU countries can claim through investment in "clean" development projects in developing countries, but critics say this could stall green investment in Europe.

The CDM "provides member states with a cost-effective means to meet their obligations and is an important flexibility mechanism," says a UK 'non-paper' leaked to the press on 17 September.

Downing Street suggests expanding the scheme to allow EU countries to offset up to 50% of their CO2 emissions reduction obligations - 20% more the current approximate limit of 30% - on the grounds that this would not undermine climate change efforts at EU or global level.

"Environmentally it does not matter where emissions reductions take place," says the non-paper.

Green groups disagree. Funds invested in clean development projects in third countries are funds that are not invested to drive a structural transformation towards low-carbon energy systems within Europe, argues Sanjeev Kumar, EU ETS coordinator for WWF in Brussels.

Serious doubts have also been raised about the actual CO2 reductions that can be achieved through projects funded under the CDM (EurActiv 27/05/08).

Busy times ahead

The UK non-paper is only one of several contributions currently being floated around in debates between EU countries on how to take forward the climate and energy package. Diplomats and experts from each of the 27 member states are meeting in Brussels this week (17 and 18 September) in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) to discuss the various positions on the package. 

While Coreper may resolve numerous technical and non-sensitive issues in advance of any formal meetings between ministers, 'hot topics' like the level of CDM credits permissible in the EU's climate policy are likely to remain the subject of political negotiations between EU environment ministers, who meet in Luxembourg on 20 October.

Meanwhile, MEP Avril Doyle, responsible for shepherding the EU ETS proposal through Parliament, wants to expand but tighten the CDM system through greater use of so-called Gold Standard projects. "Almost half" of the CO2 abatement effort between 2013 and 2020 could be achieved through CDM, says her report, which will be voted upon by the Parliament's Environment (ENVI) Committee in early October (EurActiv 18/06/08).