CLIMATE CHANGE: RATIFICATION OF THE KYOTO
COM (01) 579
Draft Council Decision concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.
|Legal base:||Article 175(1)EC, in conjunction with Articles 300(2) and 300(3); consultation; qualified majority voting
|Document originated:||23 October 2001
|Forwarded to the Council:||19 November 2001
|Deposited in Parliament:||11 December 2001
|Department:||Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
|Basis of consideration:||EM of 21 January 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||None
|To be discussed in Council:||March 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Legally and politically important
|Committee's decision:||Cleared, but further information requested
9.1 In order to meet the environmental challenges presented
by global warming, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires industrialised countries to
return their emissions of greenhouse gases by the year 2000 to
the levels obtaining in 1990. The Convention was approved on behalf
of the Community in 1993, and the Commission says that the latest
indications are that the Community will meet its goal, as its
emissions in 1999 were 4% below 1990 levels.
9.2 However, at their first meeting, the Parties to the
Convention recognised that further action was needed beyond 2000,
and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol set legally binding emission targets
for industrialised countries to meet by 2012. The Community has
undertaken to reduce its 1990 emission levels by 8% by the period
2008-2012, with reductions by individual Member States being apportioned
under the Burden Sharing Agreement. Subsequently, the Gothenburg
European Council in June 2001 called upon the Commission to prepare
a proposal for ratification by the Community before the end of
2001, so as to enable the Protocol which has to be ratified
by at least 55 Parties to come into force in 2002.
The current document
9.3 This document comprises a Council Decision which
would both allow ratification of the Protocol by the Community
and approve the arrangements for sharing out the target between
the Member States.
The Government's view
9.4 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 21 January 2002,
the Minister of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Michael Meacher) says that the Community
and the UK have taken a leading role in calling for action to
tackle climate change, and that the Government is keen to ensure
that the Kyoto Protocol enters into force before the World Summit
on Sustainable Development in September 2002. It therefore welcomes
Community ratification as an important step in the process, and
plans for the UK to ratify at the same time as other Member States,
once the Community's ratification decision has been agreed.
9.5 He adds that there are likely to be two financial
consequences for the Community arising out of ratification: first,
a contribution to the annual budget of the UNFCCC amounting to
just under _300,000; secondly, the Community and its Member States,
together with Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland,
have agreed financial support for developing countries under the
Convention, and through bilateral and multilateral arrangements,
likely to reach a level of _450 million by 2005.
9.6 The Minister also comments on the legal base. He
says that the Commission proposed Article 174(4), in conjunction
with the relevant parts of Article 300(2) and (3), the first of
which confers express competence on the Community to conclude
the Kyoto Protocol, whilst Article 300 lays down procedural requirements.
However, in the light of the Court of Justice Opinion 22/00 of
6 December 2001 concerning the Council Decision approving the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Commission has now changed
the main legal base for the current Decision to Article 175(1).
The Minister says that discussions on the legal base are continuing,
in which it has been suggested that the Decision could significantly
affect a Member State's choice between different energy sources
and the general structure of its energy supply, and that the appropriate
legal base is therefore Article 175(1).
9.7 The commitments entered into by the Community
and its Member States in connection with the Kyoto Protocol have
of course been the subject of earlier Commission Communications,
and command general support. We therefore welcome this proposal,
which will pave the way both for Community ratification, and
it is to be hoped the coming into force of the Protocol
in 2002. However, we have noted the Minister's comments on the
debate taking place in Brussels over the appropriate legal base,
and, whilst we would not want to withhold clearance on that account,
we would like him both to explain a little more fully the implications
of the use of Article 175(1) of the Treaty, as opposed to Article
174(4), and to indicate what the UK's own views are on this point.