HL Deb 27 June 1996 vol 573 cc75-6WA
Baroness Gardner of Parkes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are in a position to consult on proposals for meeting the United Kingdom's commitments under the second Sulphur Protocol of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)

Because of the rapid progress which is being made in the United Kingdom in reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide—one of the main constituents of acid rain—we are on course to meet our international obligations under the second UNECE Sulphur Protocol. We have today published a consultation paper setting out our preliminary conclusions on how this will be achieved. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

Under the terms of the protocol, the United Kingdom is committed to reducing national emissions of sulphur dioxide by 80 per cent. by 2010 compared with 1980 levels. This target is to be met through intermediate reductions of at least 50 per cent. by 2000 and 70 per cent. by 2005.

The paper shows that, in the light of current programmes for reducing emissions, particularly from power stations, the targets for 2000 and 2005 should be met without the need for additional measures. Over the longer term, we propose to keep the position under review in the light of any measures which may be required to meet short-term air quality standards—on which we shall shortly be publishing a consultation draft of a National Air Quality Strategy—and any new initiatives in this area which may be agreed by the European Community.

The paper also reviews the performance of the existing National Plan, which gives effect in the United Kingdom to the requirements of the EC Large Combustion Plant Directive, and sets out proposals for changes in its future operation. The aim of these changes will be to ensure that future allocations of emissions quota under the National Plan are more closely in line with regulatory consents under Integrated Pollution Control.

The Environment Agency has introduced new flexibilities in the revised authorisations for the electricity supply industry in England and Wales which allow the generators to switch emissions between stations, provided that no adverse impact on the environment occurs. The agency is now examining how these arrangements can be extended to allow emissions to be similarly adjusted between different industrial plants by mutual agreement of the operators. Under the revised National Plan for Large Combustion Plant, there is no longer any gain in providing a scheme of transferable sulphur emissions quotas as was originally envisaged.