The energy package voted through by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee yesterday has been welcomed by the UK food and drink sector.
The MEPs backed Commission plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from most industrial sectors by 21 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.
In response, Callton Young, director of sustainability and competitiveness at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told FoodProductionDaily.com that the package should not be viewed as a threat to the UK food and drink manufacturing sector.
The food processing industry is a major energy consumer and discharger of greenhouse gas through its reliance on cooking, refrigeration, freezing and air compressor systems.
The UK government-funded Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that around 18 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production and consumption.
Young said the Committee’s proposals are aligned to the FDF’s climate change goals and that the FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition, launched last October, includes a commitment to an industry-wide target to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 against a 1990 baseline.
“Furthermore, to send a clear message nationally and to the international business community about the urgency of the challenge of climate change, the FDF committed to going further still in the medium term by aspiring to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020,” said Young.
The EU Parliament's Environment Committee approved the plans for a tougher Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and proposals to install carbon capture technology, with the MEPs claiming industry should buy emission permits, and not get them for free.
However, the MEPs agreed that industries, including the food and drink sector, would need to buy only 15 per cent of their permits starting in 2013, an amendment to the proposal from the European Commission that would have required industries to buy a heftier 20 per cent of the permits from the same date.
Many of Europe's industries had claimed that paying too much for emitting CO2 would mean that they would not be able to stay competitive internationally and would be forced to move production and pollution outside the EU's borders.
But the 'Stern report', which Sir Nicholas Stern delivered to former UK prime minister, Tony Blair, in October 2006, argued that keeping global warming under control through massive investment today would cost the global economy far less than coping with the damage it will cause.
According to the approved package, the proportion of permits that companies would be required to buy would increase each year to 100 per cent by 2020, while companies could also import significant amounts of credits from carbon-cutting projects in countries like China and India.
Delia Villagrasa, senior advisor at the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), is critical of the Committee’s proposals, claiming the EU is so far only partway down the road to being world leader against climate change:
“As a result of the Environment Committee vote, countries and industries can buy their way out of their required emissions reductions by offsetting about a third of their effort, buying external credits, but without a guarantee that such offsets comply with solid environmental and social criteria.
“Industries, except for the power sector, have been largely exempted from the polluter pays principle at the beginning, but move to full auctioning in 2020.”