Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol to which the EU and its member states are parties, requires that states tackle emissions of six specified greenhouse gas.  There are biding quantified objectives for limiting and reducing the greenhouse gases.  The gases are

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Perfluorocarbons
  • Sulfur hexafluoride

The industrialized countries party to the agreement undertake to reduce collectively greenhouse gas emissions so as to reduce the total emissions of developed countries by at least five percent below the 1990 level.  The 15 members of the EU as of 2004 were obliged to reduce their emissions by 8 percent by 2012.  The targets are slightly different for the 10 member states who joined in 2004.

The Kyoto Protocol contemplates various measures for obtaining the objectives.  This includes

  • greater energy efficiency,
  • promotion of sustainable agriculture,
  • development of renewable energy sources,
  • cooperation with other states in terms of coordination of policies.

The EU adopted the Kyoto Protocol which commits the community and its member states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent in relation to the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.  The provisions which provide a market in greenhouse emission allowances help the EU and member states comply with the Kyoto commitment.

The European Council has approved a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, by 2020 relative to 1990 levels on condition that other developed countries undertake comparable reduction targets.

The United States and Australia have refused to ratify the Protocol.

A package of measures adopted in 2007 focus on sustainable energy.

EU and Climate Change

The European Union has played a central role in tackling climate change.  It is recognized that rising temperatures, melting glaciers and increased flooding and drought are evidence that climate change is happening.

The EU has taken action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across each area of competence including using

  • less pollutant energy and using it more efficiently.
  • providing cleaner transport options,
  • making businesses environmentally responsible,
  • using environmentally friendly planning and agriculture.

The European program is aimed at preventing temperatures increasing by more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The reduction of greenhouse gases is a central part of the strategy.  Each EU state must meet minimum contributions in relation to greenhouse gas emissions reductions for the period 2013 to 2020.  The European Union will review the progress achieved.  The EU monitors reductions and members must take corrective action if they exceed the limits.  This involves a reduction in the emission allocation of the following year, a corrective plan and suspension of eligibility to transfer allocation rights and use credits.

Member states must devise programs and the EU must devise a community program to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that deplete the Ozone layer. Member states must maintain and communicate information in relation to the emissions of the key gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

A greenhouse gas emission trading scheme has been provided for.

Substances Harming the Ozone Layer

EU regulation covers certain substances harmful to the ozone layer.  These include CFCs, HCFCs, and certain other substances.  The regulation also affects products and equipment relying on these substances.

The placing on the market or production of the substances or products and equipment containing them is prohibited with the exception of certain limited uses. The placing on the market of fire protection assistance and extinguishers containing these substances is prohibited.

The substances may be produced as food stock or process agents.  HCFCs must be phased out and may not be produced after 2019.  Methyl bromide is prohibited.

Imports or exports of these controlled substances and parts containing them are prohibited.  Limited derogations exist.

Businesses must put in place systems for recovery of controlled substances contained in refrigeration, air conditioning, heat pumping equipment,  fire protection system, and fire extinguisher.  Once recovered, these substances must be recycled, reclaimed, or destroyed in an environmentally acceptable manner.

Steps must be taken to reduce the risk of leakage and release of controlled substances.  Regulatory acts must be carried out for leakage.

There are measures to reduce pollution caused by titanium dioxide.  Dumping of waste into seas and water as solid or strong acidic waste from existing industrial establishments is subject to prohibition.  Discharges into water or waste are limited to the values set down.  Quality objectives coupled with appropriate limit values may be provided for in an approved program. Reductions are required to be achieved.

Permit Requirements

Since 2005 installations carrying out listed activities (generally those in the energy, iron and steel production wood pulp, paper and board industry and emitting specific greenhouse gases associated with the activity must have a permit from a national authority.

The permits must identify the source of gas emissions and the measures planned to monitor and report them. A permit may be issued provided the authority is satisfied that the operator is capable of monitoring and reporting emissions.  The permit will provide the obligation to surrender during the first four months of each year an amount of allowances commensurate with emissions in the previous year.  National authorities must examine the permit every five years and make modifications.

The EU-wide quantity of allowances is to decrease each year from 2013.  Allowances which are not allocated free are to be auctioned.

  • 88 percent is to be distributed between member states on the basis of the emissions.
  • 10 percent distributed for the purpose of solidarity and growth.
  • 2 percent is to be distributed to states which have achieved certain reductions.

At least half the revenues generated by the allowances are to be used for certain purposes including

  • reduction of greenhouse gases.
  • development of renewable energy.
  • capture and geological storage.
  • improvement in energy efficiency.

A system of registries has been established by the Commission in the form of an electronic database for monitoring, issuing and transferring and cancelling allowances.  There is public access subject to certain provisions.

Regulation of Emissions

Emissions of certain fluorinated gases are subject to regulations requiring their containment, use, recovery and destruction.  HFCs are used in refrigerants, cleaning solvents and foam pulling agents.  PFCs are used in semiconductor manufacture as cleaning solvents.  Sulfur hexafluorides are used in high voltage switchgear and magnesium products.  These gases are extremely persistent and have a long-term effect.

An EU regulation requires persons responsible for emissions to take all measures technically and economically feasible to prevent and minimize leakage.  Refrigeration, air conditioning, heat pumping and fire protection systems must be tested for leakage once a year.  Owners of refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump systems containing 300 kilograms or more of fluorinated gases are required to install leak detection systems.  Owners of such systems containing three kilograms or more of fluorinated gases are required to maintain records which must indicate the quantity and type of gas.

The use of sulfur hexafluorides is entirely prohibited for certain purposes.  More restrictive measures still are contemplated.  Products and equipment containing such gases must be clearly and indelibly labelled with a statement of type and quantity of gases they contain.  This covers refrigeration, air-conditioning products, heat pumps, fire protection systems, switch gears and containers.

Annually, any person producing, importing or exporting more than a ton of such fluorinated greenhouse gases must communicate the amounts produced, imported and exported and the amounts recycled, reclaimed or destroyed.

When possible, fluoride must be recovered for recycling, reclamation or destruction.  Staff involved in leakage, inspection, recovery, recycling or reclamation must undergo specified training.

Taxation of Fossil Fuels

There is a directive providing minimum rates of taxation on mineral oils, coal, natural gas and electricity.  They are aimed at reducing distortions in competition and to encourage efficient use of energy so as to reduce dependence on imported energy products and limit greenhouse gas emissions.  EU states may grant tax advantages to business that take measures to reduce their emissions.

Historically, energy products were only taxed when they are used for motor or heating fuel. There are minimum rates of taxation for motor fuel for domestic motor fuel for industrial and commercial use heating fuel and electricity. Minimum excise rates are specified for diesel, kerosene, LPG and natural gas.

Certain degrees of differentiation may be made by member states.  Differentiation may be permitted on the basis of product quality, consumption levels, certain public uses and distinctions on business and non-business use.

Certain energy products may be exempted from taxation. This includes fuels used for air and sea navigation including fishing.  States may apply total or partial exemptions or reductions in tax level in

  • pilot projects for more environmentally friendly products.
  • biofuels
  • solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biomass energy
  • products for use in public transport
  • natural Gas and LPG used as propellants

Measures may be undertaken to alleviate the tax burden on energy-intensive businesses that undertake to achieve environmental protection objectives or improve energy efficiency.  EU states may refund fully or impart tax paid by businesses that reinvested in the rationalization of their energy use.

Renewable Energy

The EU has made a directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.  Each member state has a target calculated according to the share of energy from renewable sources for the year 2020.  The share of renewable energy source used in the transport sector must be 10 percent by 2020.

EU states must establish national action plans which set the percentage of renewable energy sources used in transport, electricity and heating.

Each member state must guarantee the origin of electricity, heating and cooling produced from renewable energy sources.  Energy from biofuels and bioliquids should contribute to a reduction of at least 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in order to be taken into account.

Monitoring Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A 2013 Regulation provides a mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions and reporting other information at the national and EU level, relevant to climate change. It enhances the EU’s greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting framework.

Low carbon development strategies must be prepared by the EU States and the Commission on behalf of the EU in accordance with internationally agreed reporting provisions.  The EU States must report on the strategies every two years.

National strategies for greenhouse gas policies, measures and projections must be set up and run by the Commission and States.  States must also report on their financial, technical, support to developing countries and use of revenues in the auctioning of allowances in the EU emissions trading system.

The Regulation provides a legal basis for and will guide the EU in reviewing the use of controlled gases and states’ adoption to climate change.  The review will cover data on emissions for sectors including housing, agriculture, waste and transport in accordance with the effort sharing decision.

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