One month after the deadline, the Commission is preparing legal action against 18 member states who have failed to submit their CO2 quota plan in time for the next phase of the EU emissions trading scheme starting in 2008.

Diplomats in the Council of Ministers have started assessing the national allocation plans (NAPs) submitted in time for the second phase of the emissions trading scheme, the EU's flagship policy to reduce CO2 emissions blamed for global warming. Their workload, however, is scarce. Only 7 EU member states have submitted their plans so far, almost one month after the 30 June deadline: the UK, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Ireland.

"We are in the process of preparing letters" to launch legal action against countries which have not submitted their plans in time, said the Commission's environment spokesperson Barbara Helfferich. The letters "will be sent out next week or the week after," she told EurActiv.

The Commission said it will try to group the decisions to approve or reject the plans after all have been handed in. This process will start "at the beginning of October 2006 at the latest," Helfferich said, with a final decision due before the end of the year. In the meantime, EU member states are given a chance to comment on each others' plans and negotiate their individual emissions caps with the Commission.

But environmental NGOs have already expressed concern. "Not only the delay, but the flimsiness of most National Allocation Plans shows that European countries are underestimating the urgent need to fight climate change," said Delia Villagrasa, Emissions Trading expert at WWF European Policy Office.

Stavros Dimas, the EU's environment Commissioner, said on 22 June that the Commission's decision on the second round of NAPs "will have to ensure that member states are on track to meet their individual emission target". He said the CO2 emissions data submitted by member states this year will be instrumental in assessing the plans for the second trading period, which will run from 2008 to 2012 to coincide with the objective of the Kyoto Protocol.