Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fifteenth Report


CLIMATE CHANGE: RATIFICATION OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL


(22991)

14391/01

COM (01) 579


Draft Council Decision concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.

Legal base:Article 175(1)EC, in conjunction with Articles 300(2) and 300(3); consultation; qualified majority voting
Document originated:23 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council:19 November 2001
Deposited in Parliament:11 December 2001
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration:EM of 21 January 2002
Previous Committee Report:None
To be discussed in Council:March 2002
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared, but further information requested


Background

  9.1  In order to meet the environmental challenges presented by global warming, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires industrialised countries to return their emissions of greenhouse gases by the year 2000 to the levels obtaining in 1990. The Convention was approved on behalf of the Community in 1993, and the Commission says that the latest indications are that the Community will meet its goal, as its emissions in 1999 were 4% below 1990 levels.

  9.2  However, at their first meeting, the Parties to the Convention recognised that further action was needed beyond 2000, and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol set legally binding emission targets for industrialised countries to meet by 2012. The Community has undertaken to reduce its 1990 emission levels by 8% by the period 2008-2012, with reductions by individual Member States being apportioned under the Burden Sharing Agreement. Subsequently, the Gothenburg European Council in June 2001 called upon the Commission to prepare a proposal for ratification by the Community before the end of 2001, so as to enable the Protocol — which has to be ratified by at least 55 Parties — to come into force in 2002.

The current document

  9.3  This document comprises a Council Decision which would both allow ratification of the Protocol by the Community and approve the arrangements for sharing out the target between the Member States.

The Government's view

  9.4  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 21 January 2002, the Minister of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Michael Meacher) says that the Community and the UK have taken a leading role in calling for action to tackle climate change, and that the Government is keen to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol enters into force before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002. It therefore welcomes Community ratification as an important step in the process, and plans for the UK to ratify at the same time as other Member States, once the Community's ratification decision has been agreed.

  9.5  He adds that there are likely to be two financial consequences for the Community arising out of ratification: first, a contribution to the annual budget of the UNFCCC amounting to just under _300,000; secondly, the Community and its Member States, together with Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, have agreed financial support for developing countries under the Convention, and through bilateral and multilateral arrangements, likely to reach a level of _450 million by 2005.

  9.6  The Minister also comments on the legal base. He says that the Commission proposed Article 174(4), in conjunction with the relevant parts of Article 300(2) and (3), the first of which confers express competence on the Community to conclude the Kyoto Protocol, whilst Article 300 lays down procedural requirements. However, in the light of the Court of Justice Opinion 22/00 of 6 December 2001 concerning the Council Decision approving the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Commission has now changed the main legal base for the current Decision to Article 175(1). The Minister says that discussions on the legal base are continuing, in which it has been suggested that the Decision could significantly affect a Member State's choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply, and that the appropriate legal base is therefore Article 175(1).

Conclusion

  9.7  The commitments entered into by the Community and its Member States in connection with the Kyoto Protocol have of course been the subject of earlier Commission Communications, and command general support. We therefore welcome this proposal, which will pave the way both for Community ratification, and — it is to be hoped — the coming into force of the Protocol in 2002. However, we have noted the Minister's comments on the debate taking place in Brussels over the appropriate legal base, and, whilst we would not want to withhold clearance on that account, we would like him both to explain a little more fully the implications of the use of Article 175(1) of the Treaty, as opposed to Article 174(4), and to indicate what the UK's own views are on this point.


 
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