§ Lord Gainford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the United Kingdom intends to sign the New United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Protocol on reducing sulphur emissions.
§ The Earl of Arran
Yes. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment plans to attend the Ministerial session of the Executive Body of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution in Oslo on 13–14 June and to sign for the United Kingdom the new Protocol on the further46WA reduction of sulphur emissions. The text of the Protocol will be published as a Command Paper and laid before Parliament in due course.
Based on the concept of critical loads, which the UK played a leading part in developing, the Protocol will require Parties to reduce their sulphur emissions by specified amounts, depending in part on the quantity of their emissions and on the nature of their impact on the environment across Europe. The UK's obligations will be to make reductions, against 1980 emission levels, of 50 per cent. by 2000, 70 per cent. by 2005 and 80 per cent. by 2010.
These are challenging targets which will substanti-ally deal with acidification problems in the UK within the time frame of our sustainable development strategy, in addition to providing substantial benefits for other European countries affected by our emissions. The targets will provide a stable long-term framework for planning by government and industry. While it is possible that developments in the economy at large may result in earlier achievement of the targets, our national strategy and policies will be based firmly on the targets and timescales set out in the Protocol.
Other key obligations in the new Protocol will be for Parties: to apply specified emission limit values to major new combustion sources (i.e., those whose construction is authorised after 31 December 1995)
to set specified national standards for the sulphur content of gasoil two years after entry into force of the Protocol
for existing large combustion plants above 500 MWh, to apply the specified emission limit values from 1 July 2004 subject to not entailing excessive costs or to apply equivalent emissions limitations as defined in the Protocol or to apply "other appropriate provisions" which deliver the necessary reductions
for existing large combustion plants of 50–500 MWh, to use the specified emission limit values as guidance from 1 July 2004
to produce within six months of entry into force of the Protocol a national strategy setting out how they will achieve their reductions
to submit reports on measures taken and progress in meeting the reduction targets for the UNECE to review progress in 1997.
The Protocol also establishes a Compliance Committee which will monitor the delivery of the agreed targets.
We warmly welcome this Protocol, which will bring substantial environmental benefits. The effect of the Protocol's provisions is to leave the UK general flexibility to decide how to meet our obligations and will place no new obligations on us as to the means by which the sulphur emissions reductions are to be 47WA secured. In particular, for existing plant, the terms of the Protocol will allow us to maintain the approach taken in the UK's National Plan under the EC Large Combustion Plants Directive and also allow the use of economic instruments. Therefore the provisions of the Protocol will be without prejudice to HMIP's obligations under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to apply 48WA BATNEEC in deciding on authorisations on a site-by-site basis. Our strategy for implementing the Protocol, on which we shall be consulting in due course, will met our obligations in a way which is cost effective, appropriate to our national circumstances, and consistent with our economic and environmental objectives.