If plans to build new coal-fired power stations get the go-ahead then Europe's main climate policy could be in danger of collapsing, a thinktank claimed today.
The European Union has set a goal of reducing emissions from the power sector and heavy industry by 21 per cent by 2020 through its emissions trading scheme (ETS).
This scheme has been in place since 2005 and puts a price on carbon that businesses use and creates a market for carbon.
A report from the IPPR thinktank said the scheme is under threat from 75 proposed new coal plants across Europe, including seven in the UK.
The study comes before a week of protests at one of these seven ? Kingsnorth in Kent.
IPPR claims that even if a proportion of the 75 were built, the EU emissions reduction target would only be achievable through widespread deployment of the as yet untried technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Although CCS has the potential to cut carbon emissions from coal plants by up to 90 per cent, some industry experts warn that at current rates of development the technology will not be ready until after 2020.
As such the IPPR argues today that there should be a Europe-wide freeze on coal investment for a minimum of two years in order to reach carbon emission targets.
It also wants the timetable for CCS development to be accelerated for the EU to create a CCS directive.
"The EU's carbon trading scheme is the central pillar of our climate policy, not only for reducing emissions but also for building a global climate change agreement," said report author and IPPR senior research fellow Matthew Lockwood.
"However, that pillar is still weak, and IPPR's report shows that the scheme would collapse in the event of a new coal rush. Europe needs to do two things urgently freeze conventional coal investment until we get greater certainty, and accelerate the development of new carbon capture technologies."
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