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EU Says UK Emissions Changes Unacceptable - Letter

EU Says UK Emissions Changes Unacceptable - Letter
BRUSSELS - Britain's decision to water down its emissions trading plan to let industry pollute more is unacceptable, the European Commission wrote to the UK government in a letter obtained by Reuters on Friday.

Britain altered its plan, which had already been approved by the European Union executive, in October after complaints from companies that it was too tough.

Britain has threatened to take the commission to court if it refuses to accept the revisions, which raised the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that industry can emit by nearly 3 percent above the original plan.

The commission has said it has to approve Britain's proposed changes. The two sides have not yet come to an agreement.

Britain's original plan was approved in July with instructions for technical alterations, which the commission said Britain had agreed to make.

The country's subsequent changes were incompatible with that decision, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas wrote in the letter to UK environment secretary Margaret Beckett.

"Amendments such as an increase of the total allocation by 19.8 million tonnes do not aim at addressing the incompatibilities identified in the decision and are therefore not acceptable," Dimas wrote.

Britain has said it plans to publish its delayed allocation plan on Monday.

The European Commission declined to comment.

The emissions trading scheme, which started in January, is a key part of the EU's efforts to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, a global environmental treaty, which enters into force next week.

Companies have to meet targets to cut CO2, a major greenhouse gas that many scientists blame for global warming, or buy allowances to emit on a traded market.

Each of the bloc's 25-member states was required to submit a national allocation plan detailing how much CO2 their companies would be allocated to emit in the trading period 2005-2007.

The letter to the UK said commission officials had already made clear in meetings with British officials that "increasing the total amount of national allocations would raise major problems," Dimas wrote.

"It is indeed our view that the UK request to amend its National Allocation Plan would not be admissible," he wrote.

The EU scheme involves some 12,000 installations across the 25-nation bloc including power stations, steel-makers and other energy-intensive industries.

Companies in countries without approved plans are at a disadvantage to others because they must still monitor their emissions without knowing their allocations.

Plans for Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic and Greece have not yet been approved.

Story by Jeff Mason

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