Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion has helped win a battle to put UK manufacturing on a more level playing field with European competitors in paying for carbon emissions.

Power-stationEuro MPs voted on July 3rd to reform Europe's beleaguered emissions trading system (ETS) that sets a price on industrial carbon dioxide emissions. The scheme is Europe's principal tool in the fight against global warming and climate change.

In a close vote, the Parliament in Strasbourg supported proposals to 'backload' the Emissions Trading and delay the sale of further carbon allowances until 2020.

The UK's carbon price is currently higher than that elsewhere in Europe, leaving UK manufacturers paying more for their electricity than their EU competitors. The 'backloading' as proposed is expected to bring the price in the rest of the EU closer to that in Britain.

The hotly contested vote (344 in favour, 311 against, 46 abstentions) was widely seen as a test of support for Europe's efforts to reduce CO2 emissions at a time of economic crisis.

County and West Midlands' MEP Phil Bennion, Lib Dem employment spokesman, commented after the vote:

"I am glad the Parliament has voted to reform the EU Emissions Trading Scheme rather than abandon it.

"The ETS is far from perfect. We need to look at long term solutions through carbon floor pricing within international agreements - but it was crucial that Parliament voted to keep ETS functioning.

"At the moment, there is an oversupply of carbon permits, and unless this is tackled, there is no incentive for business to embrace low-carbon technologies.

"Many Conservative MEPs have been trying to wreck ETS and reject the Commission's proposals, but that would undermine a key mechanism for fighting climate change.

"I welcome this vote but it is clear that determination to tackle global warming is fading fast in other party groups of MEPs.

"Europe used to lead the battle against climate but now we are failing to develop a low carbon economy. This is a huge missed opportunity as millions of green jobs could be created."

The proposal supported by Parliament would see extra carbon permits affected by the backloading proposal released back onto the market before 2020, reducing prices later in the economic cycle when demand is likely to be higher.

The Parliament's decision must now be matched by support from EU environment ministers.