German MEP Holger Krahmer (ALDE), who is steering the revision of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive through the European Parliament, told electricity industry representatives yesterday (8 October) in Brussels that he would not bow to the demands of environmentalists who want to add CO2 performance standards to the new directive.
The revised directive, combining seven existing EU air pollution laws, will require some 52,000 industrial installations to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil and water. The law sets limit values for pollutants that cause acid rain, but it does not touch CO2, which is regulated via the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS; see EurActiv LinksDossier).
But green groups, unconvinced of the cap-and-trade system's capacity to curb carbon dioxide emissions, have been upping the pressure on the EU institutions to control these within the industrial pollution directive (EurActiv 26/08/09).
"I hear loud and clear demands for CO2 standards," Krahmer said. He encouraged electricity operators to lobby against the proposal as it would undermine the workings of the EU ETS.
Krahmer insisted that cutting emissions is a matter of choosing between instruments and that Europe had made a clear choice in favour of emissions trading. He added that any attempts from the Parliament's side to include CO2 limits would be a waste of resources, because the 27 EU countries would never accept such an amendment.
Marianne Wenning, head of the European Commission's industrial emissions unit, agreed with Krahmer's assessment.
"If we open up certain issues [...] then we're getting into a debate where everybody wants something," she warned.
Limit values to stay
More generally, electricity operators warned that the new legislation would cause security of supply problems. The industry is concerned that requiring large combustion plants to comply with stricter pollution standards would make investments in efficiency too expensive and force some plants to shut down prematurely.
But Wenning pointed out that the Commission's impact analysis had revealed the draft's overall benefit to society, including to health and the environment. She noted that a negligible 0.03 eurocent increase in electricity prices was not enough to substantiate the industry's claims.
But electricity operators argued that the EU does not as yet have a common electricity market, meaning that the picture is different for each member state. As a consequence, some of them could encounter large costs, Eurelectric warned.
"At country level, there could be security of supply issues and far larger costs than at European level," said Walter Ruigrok, chair of Eurelectric's environmental management and economics programme.
But MEP Krahmer claimed the Parliament would not touch the limit values set by the Commission. He pointed to the many national interests involved that would make a compromise here impossible. Moreover, the "Turkish bazaar"-type Parliament debates are "too hot" to change carefully studied values, he added.
Drawing up their first-reading position in June, the 27-member states in the EU Council of Ministers called for greater flexibility, inserting a transition period for existing plants to phase in lower NOx SO2 and dust limits by the end of 2020 (EurActiv 26/06/09).
The incoming Spanish EU Presidency, keen to reach a deal on the legislation before the summer, is equally reluctant to open up the Commission's values, said Iñigo Ascasibar Zubizarreta, environment counsellor at the Spanish Permanent Representation to the EU.
But Krahmer cautioned that there were still many "heavy differences" between the two lawmaking bodies of the Union.
"Let's take time," he said. "There's no need for a fast-running agreement."