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Estonia to challenge European Commission over carbon quotas

The Estonian government decided Thursday to challenge the European Commission over the carbon dioxide quota the EC has established for the northernmost Baltic state.

“The model the Commission is using (to allocate quotas) works automatically in many ways. For example, it thinks it would be economically useful for Estonia to produce more energy from gas, but it's not as simple as that,” the head of the government's EU affairs department, Gert Anso, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. “The energy mix used in each country is in member states' competence. The EU couldn't tell Austria to produce more power from nuclear sources, for example,” he added.

Estonia depends heavily for its power generation on burning oil shale, an energy-rich rock which is abundant in the country. However, the combustion process produces massive amounts of carbon dioxide, a gas whose emissions all European countries are obliged to reduce under the EC's climate-change program. Estonia had originally asked for an annual quota of 24 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The Commission, however, recently set a target of 12.7 million tons - a figure the Estonian side says is based on false assumptions. The figure is largely derived from the belief that Estonia could greatly increase its use of natural gas - a low-carbon fuel - in energy generation, Anso said. However, that would be unacceptable for political reasons.

Estonia imports all its natural gas from Russia, and has evolved a long-term plan to reduce that reliance as much as possible. The Baltic state will challenge the EC in the EU's court of first instance, Anso added. “The aim would be to get the court to repeal the EC's decision, so it would have to come up with a new suggestion,” he said. (