European Parliament Acts Against U.S. Climate Stance

STRASBOURG, France, July 6, 2001 (ENS) - In its last session before the summer break, the European Parliament passed a resolution to limit the advantage the United States might gain by not ratifying the Kyoto climate protocol.

The assembly declared itself "severely disappointed" by the "unilateral and non-cooperative" position taken by the United States on the Kyoto Protocol which limits the emission of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming by industrialized countries.

Insisting that the protocol remains the "only effective instrument for combating climate change," the parliament called for the European Union to launch "initiatives" under the World Trade Organization preventing countries that do not ratify the protocol from gaining competitive advantages, especially in the energy products sector.

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Nicole Fontaine of France is president of the European Parliament (Photo courtesy European Parliament)
European lawmakers repeated calls for nuclear power to be excluded from the protocol's clean development mechanism.

A crowded agenda included several environmental measures, including adoption of major laws to promote renewable energy and curb air pollution from large power plants.

In a resolution on last month's Gothenburg Summit meeting of European heads of state, the Members expressed "regret" that EU heads of government "failed to take decisions on concrete actions" under a new sustainability strategy.

They urged the Belgian presidency that assumed power on July 1 to take the sustainability strategy forward with actions and quantified targets. They advised the new presidency to focus on a new European food authority to clean up the food supply and "urgent" revision of common agricultural and fisheries policies.

The parliament adopted first reading amendments to a draft law that would reduce air pollution from private motorboats. The changes leave intact limits on carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulates proposed by the European Commission for boats plying coastal waters and watercourses, but would introduce tighter limits on the three latter pollutants for boats on lakes. Environmentalists recently complained that the draft law ignored emissions to water.

The amendments also call for tougher controls on vessel engine noise, and for revised standards on all emissions to be proposed within three years of the law's entry into force.

The parliament called for a legally binding European Union framework for managing coastal zones to be proposed by the European Commission within three years. Under this, member states would have to adopt national strategies for integrated coastal zone management before 2005, based on a mandatory "stocktaking" of their approach to coastal management.

The demands respond to a European Commission policy paper, which last year recommended a decentralized, voluntary approach to coastal care.

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European Parliament in session at Strasbourg, France (Photo courtesy European Parliament)
In a resolution on safe mining activities, Members supported European Commission suggestions for an EU directive on mining waste. But they said other mining operations could not be adequately regulated under the EU's integrated pollution prevention and control directive. Mining companies should be responsible for cleaning up accidents at mines and their tailings ponds, they said.

The final form of an EU renewable energy support law emerged earlier in the week after the European parliament backed a series of compromise amendments to a ministerial common position reached last December.

The law will enter into force once governments rubber stamp the parliament's amendments. EU Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said Wednesday's vote was a "huge step towards a more diverse and environmentally friendly energy supply."

Under the deal, energy produced from incinerating the biodegradable portion of municipal and industrial waste will be classified as renewable, as demanded by the council but previously resisted by the parliament.

In return, parliament has won a clause stating that incinerator operators will be eligible for financial support only if this does not "undermine" the EU's waste hierarchy. The hierarchy obliges member states to favor waste prevention and recycling over energy recovery and then disposal.

Environmentalists have campaigned against classifying incineration as a renewable form of energy, and they are likely to see the waste hierarchy clause as scant consolation. But Green MEP Claude Turmes of Luxembourg, whose last ditch bid to exclude incineration was rejected by a large majority today, was more optimistic.

"In general I'm happy with it," Turmes told reporters. "There was no way to get more out of governments." Now, he said, the European Commission would have to authorize all state aid given to incinerators.

Under the agreement, member state targets for increasing the share of electricity generated from renewable sources will remain "indicative," rather than legally binding.

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European power plants like this one at Blyth, England will be governed by a new emissions law. (Photo courtesy Freefoto.com)
The seal was set on two major European Union air pollution laws Tuesday when the European parliament's conciliation delegation unanimously approved a series of agreements hammered out with the council of ministers last week.

Laws governing the emissions from large combustion plants and national emission ceilings will come into force once ministers and the full parliament approve the joint conciliation texts in the autumn.

Under the directive, operators of pre-1987 power plants will be able to delay the introduction from 2008 of tough new limits on sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and dust for 20,000 operating hours. But this delay must not extend past the end of 2015.

Member countries will be able to relax the limits on SO2 and NOx applied to so-called "peak-load" combustion plants operated only at times of high power demand. Eligible plants will be those operated for less than 2,000 hours annually from 2008 and less than 1,500 annually from 2016.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}