‘Green’ equipment pledge dropped

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Series Details Vol.7, No.38, 18.10.01, p4
Publication Date 18/10/2001
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Date: 18/10/01

By Laurence Frost

PLANS to boost public spending on energy efficient equipment have been dropped, in a move environmentalists warn could undermine the credibility of Europe's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

A pledge to introduce new binding rules on public procurement will not feature in European Commission proposals for the ratification and implementation of Kyoto to be tabled next Tuesday (23 October), after appearing in earlier drafts. Green groups say the measure would have strengthened the EU's hand at the next 'COP7' round of international climate talks taking place in a fortnight in Marrakech, Morroco. "Public procurement is at the core of Europe's credibility on climate change," said Stephan Singer of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). "When you consider that public spending accounts for 15-25 per cent of natural resource consumption in the EU, we could have achieved a lot with a directive on energy efficient products. And if Europe wants to get Japan, Canada and Australia to ratify [the protocol] it would have been useful to show that emissions cuts can be achieved with public measures."

An early version of the communication by Margot Wallström, the environment commissioner, stated that the EU executive was "envisaging a directive" which would "require procurement of products or services with the best environmental ratings". The directive would have forced local authorities across the EU to take energy efficiency into account when buying equipment or services. Current rules on procurement allow but do not oblige public purchasers to consider environmental factors - and only to a limited extent. But the opposition of Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein was made clear last week by his deputy head of cabinet, Laurs Norlund, and no mention is made of the directive in the final communication.

Environmental groups are pleased with the package, which includes a long-awaited proposal for a market-friendly emissions trading system to allow firms to buy and sell permits for the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. "The EU was opposed to emissions trading in initial Kyoto discussions while the US was in favour of it," said Jos Delbeke, head of the Commission's climate change unit. "Now the irony is that the US is out [of the protocol] and we're now the world leaders in emissions trading. We are now also more convinced about the merits of cost-effective policies." The measures also aim to double the fraction of the EU's electricity produced by low-emissions 'combined heat and power' plants, to reach 18 per cent by 2008.

Preview of European Commission proposals for the ratification and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

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