In what has been dubbed ‘Super Tuesday’, the environment committee of the European Parliament recently voted on the Commission’s proposals to amend the EU ETS from 2013, the proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) framework directive and the proposed new member state burden sharing agreement for non-EU ETS greenhouse gas emissions.

The main elements of the proposed revision of the EU ETS directive were retained, particularly the emissions cap for 2020 and the phasing out of free allowances by the same date, with the environment committee adopting the following key amendments.

  • The inclusion of a funding mechanism for CCS that would see up to 500m carbon allowances set aside from the new entrants reserve to co-finance the construction of 12 CCS demonstration projects.
  • A requirement for all revenue generated by auctioning EU ETS allowances to be spent on climate change protection measures, with half required to be spent on projects in developing countries.
  • Industries at risk of carbon leakage should be identified only after a successor to the Kyoto Protocol is agreed and should get up to 100 per cent of their allowances free.
  • The threshold for exempting small and medium-sized firms from the EU ETS should be raised from 10,000 to 25,000 tonnes of emissions annually.

The vote on the CCS proposal saw the adoption of a requirement that from 2015 new power plants over 300 megawatts in size would not be allowed to emit more than 500 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, with the result that the fitting of CCS technology will effectively become mandatory. The emission limit is not expected to survive negotiations with the European Council. Other amendments would see CCS operators continuing to be legally responsible for storage sites for at least 50 years after their closure and the establishment of a new finance mechanism to cover the cost of monitoring and remediating any potential leakages from closed sites.

Finally, the vote on the proposed new burden sharing agreement saw the environment committee back the individual greenhouse gas reduction targets initially proposed by the Commission. MEPs, however, tightened the proposed limit on member states’ access to Kyoto carbon credits, capping their use at eight per cent of 2005 emissions for the whole 2013-20 period. Longer-term emission targets were also introduced that would see a halving of EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 and a 60-80 per cent cut by 2050 relative to 1990 emissions.