Prague - Czech coal-fired power stations, steelworks and chemical plants emitted less carbon dioxide than the limit set by Brussels for a third year in a row. This means they can earn billions of crowns again - by selling unused carbon trading permits to other companies in Europe, which have exceeded the limit.
Data from the European Commission show Czech companies emitted 87.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year, although they had permits for 97.6 million tonnes. But the amount of emissions in 2007 was the highest in the three years since the European Commission introduced the carbon permits and the trading system.
In 2007, Czech companies had a reserve of 10 million tonnes, against 14 million tonnes in 2006 and 15 million tonnes in 2005.
Seller turned buyer
But Brussels has earmarked far fewer trading permits for Czech companies for 2008 than for the past years. Chemical companies and power stations can emit only 86.8 million tonnes this year.
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Some companies may, therefore, have to either buy carbon permits or reduce emissions. Both options are rather costly.
"I am convinced the European Commission harmed the Czech Republic when it earmarked emission permits," said Industry and Trade Minister Martin Říman.
Cabinet sues Brussels
The cabinet wanted the commission to provide Czech companies with permits for more than 100 million tonnes of CO2 for every year of the 2008-2012 period. Brussels was willing to grant less than 87 million tonnes, and the cabinet decided to sue the commission last year, based on Říman's proposal. The court has not passed a verdict yet.
"Each member country has the right to stand up against the decision, but it will have to prove the commission has taken a discriminatory stance against it," said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for the EU commissioner for environment. She added the commission employed the same criteria for each country.
"We are fully convinced we have not discriminated against anybody and that the court will confirm our decision," she added.
Environment Minister Martin Bursík disagreed with the lawsuit from the beginning. "The goal of the system is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not to let companies earn money from the sales of permits which they have owing to an overly benevolent allocations system," said Bursík, adding Brussels treated everybody the same.
Adapted and republished by the Prague Daily Monitor