Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twelfth Report



Commission Communication on the implementation of the first phase of the European Climate Change Programme.

Legal base:
Document originated:23 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 26 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 14 November 2001
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 13 December 2001
Previous Committee Report: None, but see footnotes
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


  17.1  At the Kyoto climate change conference in December 1997, the Community agreed to take certain measures to reduce emissions of a "basket" of six gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three so-called "industrial gases" (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride). In the light of that agreement, the Commission put forward in June 1998 a Communication[36] in which it set out a first analysis of how those commitments might be met. This was followed in March 2000 by a further Communication[37], which reviewed the Community's progress to date in meeting its emissions target, and looked at the steps which will be needed to reinforce existing policies and to reduce emissions further.

  17.2  On the first of these points, it noted that, whilst the aim for the Community as a whole is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2008-2012 to a level 8% below 1990 levels[38], such emissions had in fact been rising in recent years, and that, without further measures being taken, they were likely to increase by between 6 and 8%. It also noted that trends in Member States varied widely from the Community average, with many Member States finding it increasingly difficult to control their emissions.

  17.3  As to the further steps to be taken, the Communication observed that implementation of the Kyoto Protocol appeared to be high on the political agenda, in that some Member States had already strengthened their climate change strategies, whilst many others were in the process of developing them. It also said that the Commission had successfully brought forward important measures, but that "progress would have been far more pronounced" if some key measures, such as the energy tax proposal, had been more actively pursued by the Council.

  17.4  However, it believed that Member States would have to commit themselves to a further strengthening of their domestic policies if their respective targets under the burden sharing agreement were to be achieved, and that common and co-ordinated measures at Community level would be needed to supplement these. It saw this as involving in particular the development within the Community of an emissions trading system, and the integration of environmental aspects into sectoral policies, within the context of a European Climate Change Programme (ECCP). It also said that it would elaborate further on the Programme, but suggested that it should initially address ways of achieving the Kyoto target through action in the energy and transport sectors, which were the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions.

The present document

  17.5  In the present document, the Commission seeks to outline the first phase of the ECCP, in the light of the priority given to combatting climate change by the European Council in June 2001, the further developments on the Kyoto Protocol within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and the latest analysis of the Community's progress towards meeting its Kyoto targets (which suggests that, if further action is not taken, there is still likely to be gap of around 8%).

  17.6  The Communication highlights a package of measures it proposes to put forward over the next couple of years. These are grouped in four sections (cross-cutting, energy, transport and industry), which it says have to be viewed against the background of other initiatives such as the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources, improved energy efficiency, and so on.

(a) Cross-cutting issues

  17.7  These would entail:

    —  Effective implementation of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive

    The Commission says that this measure, which applies to large industrial and agricultural installations, requires operators to take measures yielding the best results for the environment as a whole, and focuses on prevention. It suggests that better use could be made of the Directive, and it will be asking a technical group to provide recommendations, whilst at the same time encouraging Member States to develop relevant national strategies for dealing with energy requirements.

    —  Directive on linking Project-based Mechanisms, including Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanisms to the Community's emissions trading scheme

    The Commission says that this measure would be complementary to the Framework Directive on Emissions Trading, and will specify the conditions under which "credits" from project-based mechanisms on greenhouse gas emissions trading can be added to allowances. It adds that decisions concerning Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanisms are still under negotiation within the UNFCC, and that the proposal will need to take into account the outcome, and be consistent with the Community's development policies.

    —  Review of the Monitoring Mechanism

    The Commission is required under existing Community legislation to assess progress at Member State and Community levels in reaching the Kyoto targets, but it says that these requirements are both inadequate in terms of existing measures, and not sufficient to cover the decisions agreed in connection with Kyoto on such issues as sinks (carbon sequestration through forestry and agricultural activities). It will therefore be proposing the necessary amendments.

(b) Energy issues

  17.8  These would involve:

    —  Framework Directive on Minimum Efficiency Requirements for End-Use Equipment

    The Commission says that energy efficiency measures applying to tradeable goods must be established on a Community-wide basis in order to prevent internal market distortions, and that it will address this need in relation to all types of end-use equipment sold and used on the Community market, including standard components (where there is a significant potential for energy saving) and domestic appliances, lighting, and building equipment. Its aim will be to set ambitious and cost-effective energy efficiency targets.

    —  Directive on Energy Demand Management

    The Commission suggests that completion of the internal market for energy by developing and encouraging energy efficiency on the demand side, especially that provided by utilities and related service companies in the form of energy services, is an important element in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It therefore envisages Member States being required to set targets to promote and support energy demand management, especially for smaller consumers, such as households, and it would also set out a certain minimum level of investment for energy efficiency and demand management, mainly through business-driven activities.

    —  Directive for the Promotion of Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

    The Commission's aim would be to complement and strengthen existing measures to promote CHP, so as to double its share in Community electricity generation by 2010. It would do this by drawing on the steps contained in the Renewables Electricity Directive, notably on grid access and connection costs, and the encouragement of the relevant technologies.

    —  Non-legislative proposals

    The Commission would supplement various proposals by a couple of non-legislative initiatives, involving increased energy-efficient public procurement and a public awareness campaign.

(c) Transport

  17.9  There would be three main measures within this heading, as follows:

    —  Shifting the balance between modes of transport

    The Commission notes that road transport alone represents 84% of all transport-related carbon dioxide emissions, but that the fastest rate of growth in greenhouse gas emissions arises from air transport. It therefore wants to encourage a shift from these to cleaner means of transport, such as rail and waterways, involving a revitalisation of the railways, the improvement of inland waterway transport through the standardisation of technical requirement, and the promotion of short sea shipping by improving port services and infrastructure.

    —  Improved infrastructure use and charging

    The Commission says that congestion reduces transport efficiency and thus increases greenhouse gas emissions, and it suggests that this could be addressed by further integration of external transport costs, and fair and balanced pricing, between the different modes. It sees this being achieved through a framework directive on an infrastructure charging system, combined with uniform fuel taxation for commercial road transport.

    —  Promotion of biofuels for transport

    The Commission wishes to provide a Community framework to foster the use of biofuels for transport within the Community, and has in mind requiring Member States to set the targets needed to achieve this, including a reduction in excise duty.

(d) Industry

  17.10  The Commission's sole proposal within this area is for a Framework Directive on Flourinated Gases (which it says account for only around 2% of overall Community greenhouse gas emissions, but nevertheless have a high global warming potential). The main sources of such gases are refrigeration and air-conditioning, and the Commission envisages measures to minimise emissions at the design, manufacture, installation, operation and disposal stages, together with enhanced monitoring.

The Government's view

  17.11  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 13 December 2001, the Minister of State (Commons) (Environment) at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Michael Meacher) says that the Government shares the Commission's view that clear action is needed at both Member State and Community level in order to achieve the Kyoto targets, and that there will be benefits in ensuring some European measures are in place to help deliver the target for the Community as a whole. He adds that the UK has taken a leading role in calling for action to tackle climate change, and therefore welcomes this Communication as part of a positive Community-level response. He describes the proposed scope of the ECCP, and the list of possible common and co-ordinated policies set out in the Communication, as "wide-ranging", and says that the Government will need to look carefully at individual proposals, and consider their costs and benefits, and likely impact on the UK, bearing in mind that some of the measures which the Commission may propose could cut across domestic action or be more appropriately introduced nationally.


  17.12  Although this Communication is in fairly general terms and is not in itself a legislative document, it does nevertheless deal with an important subject, and some of its suggestions, if pursued, could prove to be controversial. We will therefore want to look more closely at any individual proposals. In the meantime, we are content to clear the current document, but we are drawing it to the attention of the House in view of its potential significance.

36   (19217) 9443/98; see HC 155-xxxv (1997-98), paragraph 8 (22 July 1998). Back

37   (21092) 6914/00; see HC 23-xiv (1999-2000), paragraph 9 (12 April 2000). Back

38   Under the "burden sharing" subsequently agreed, some Member States have undertaken to make a steeper cut: in the case of the UK, by 12.5%. Back

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