Near-agreement on sulphur content of marine fuels
By Isabelle Smets | Wednesday 23 May 2012
According to the European Parliament, the agreement worked out in the 15 May three-way meeting on reducing the sulphur content of marine fuels (see
Europolitics4427) was confirmed by the Council, Commission and Parliament, on 22 May. The European Environmental Bureau and T&E (Transport & Environment) announced the same thing. Based on information provided by the Council, however, the Danish EU Presidency has given member states until 23 May to challenge the agreement. So formally it is still too early to applaud. After confirmation by the Council, on 23 May, the agreement will still have to be formally adopted by the environment ministers and by the EP plenary.
The agreement lowers maximum authorised sulphur content in marine fuels to 0.1% in sensitive areas like the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel from 1 January 2015 (from 1.5% today). In other areas, the limit will be lowered from 4.5% to 0.5% from 1 January 2020. It is this non-negotiable date of 2020 that caused certain delegations to hesitate at a meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper), on 16 May, the day after the agreement was reached. The Danish Presidency suggested the reflection period for that reason.
The hesitation comes from the fact that the EU text transposes the latest provisions adopted in 2008 by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), except that the IMO will assess the situation in terms of real availability of compliant fuels before 2020, with the possibility of postponing the deadline to 2025 if necessary. Such postponement is not allowed under the agreement reached at EU level.