Medical and environmental groups coalition warns of weak IED

Publish date: April 29, 2010

Written by: Veronica Webster

BRUSSELS – A coalition of European medical and environmental groups – including Bellona Europa – have urged the European Parliament to resist possible reductions in public health and environmental protection standards within the forthcoming Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).

In particular, they warn against the counterproductive effects of derogations or time extensions for the introduction of necessary, stricter nitrogen oxide (NOx) Emission Limit Values (ELV), in addition to an uneven application of Best Available Technologies (BATs) amongst member states. This key piece of EU legislation will undergo a second reading in the environment committee of the European Parliament on Tuesday May 4th.

The IED is central to reducing air pollution in Europe and determines i.a. a process for setting BAT that serve as references for new industrial plants as well as specific limits on emissions of SOx, NOx and dust.

Best Available Techniques (BATs), agreed by industry, member states and NGOs, are the state of the art techniques which achieve a high level of protection for the environment whilst being economically and technically viable.

The environment and health coalition identifies in a press release of April 26th reasons for concern within ongoing discussions regarding the second reading of the IED, as they appear to be favouring certain industry interests over green technology, public and environmental health.

There are two main issues at stake. Firstly, despite 15 years’ warning that a stricter NOx ELV will apply from 2016, several EU countries and their power companies are arguing for more time. They also argue that without derogations new investment would move electricity supply towards more carbon-intensive technologies. The statement explains that this is an oversimplified argument, given the benefits of efficient new plants, the role of CO2 capture readiness requirements and the unlikelihood of coal being abandoned.

The second issue addressed in the release is the uneven application of BATs in different member states.

“Implementation studies from the European Commission revealed that in some cases significant differences and shortcomings occur between how permits are applied between different EU member states. This not only creates an unlevel playing field for industry but also an uneven level of health and environmental protection for EU citizens, who ultimately pay the price,” explains Christian Schaible of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Finally, the press release addresses Eurelectric’s argument that CO2 limits for individual plants would not result in overall emission reductions because the power sector is covered by the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). The environmental and medical groups believe that if CO2 emission ceilings were introduced in a Member State to enable construction of lower emission power plants and thus technological learning, it would make it easier to reduce emissions under the ETS.

The IED is clearly a litmus test for the Europe 2020 strategy and its commitment towards smart, green growth. Environmental and health NGOs call for a realistic and ambitious IED that provides the predictability and equal treatment sorely needed for green, capital-intensive investments.

Download the groups’ statement in PDF format to the right.     

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