European legislators back emissions rules

EU legislators voted in favor of laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


European Union legislators voted Oct. 7 in favor of laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reports the New York Times . But frustrated some environmental advocates by taking steps to ease the burden on industry.

The European Union created the world’s largest emissions trading market in 2005 to require heavy industries to cap their pollution levels. So far, that initiative has not helped cut emissions by much, leading policy makers to propose changes.

The most contentious changes would make it more expensive for heavy industries to continue to pollute, by requiring them to buy more of their carbon permits after 2012. European governments currently award the majority of the permits free.

On Tuesday, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted to support proposals that would require most electric utilities to buy all their permits starting in 2013. Countries like Poland that rely heavily on coal seek a more gradual introduction.

But legislators also added proposals that could exempt utilities that feed heating systems or use high-efficiency technologies for heating and cooling. They also voted in favor of subsidies worth about 10 billion euros, or $13.6 billion, to help utilities develop technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide from coal plants.

The committee supported adding the aluminum and chemical sectors to the system by 2013. It now includes the steel, cement, glass, and pulp and paper industries.

Businesses have warned that the plan will cost billions of euros. In a concession, legislators said that industries would need to buy only 15% of their permits starting in 2013 — a move intended to shield them from competition from manufacturers outside Europe where there is less regulation. The commission had proposed requiring industries to buy 20% of the permits starting in 2013.
The proportion of permits that companies would be required to buy would increase each year, to 100% by 2020.

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