A team of government carbon inspectors is being formed to compel thousands of British companies to disclose full details of their annual carbon emissions under a mandatory new scheme launched today.
The Environment Agency inspectors will be equipped with powers to visit offices and factories, view documents and impose stiff fines on companies that understate their emissions or fail to comply with the rules.
According to the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme, all of the estimated 5,000 British companies that use more than 6000 megawatt hours of electricity a year, worth about £500,000, must participate.
From today they have six months to measure and declare their annual emissions to the Environment Agency, which will administer the scheme. Starting in 2011 they will have to buy permits to cover them, and from 2013 their emissions will be capped at a pre-determined level.
Malcolm Ferguson, the agency’s head of climate change, said that the group’s enforcement arm planned to carry out audits of about 20 per cent of the companies every year to ensure that they comply. “There is quite a high chance that companies will get audited in the first two to three years,” he said.
As well as the 5,000 companies that will actively participate in the scheme, a further 15,000 must register for it and may be drawn in at a later stage. Companies that fail to register by September 30 will face an automatic fine of £5,000 and a further penalty of £500 a day for a maximum of 80 days. Further financial penalties will be imposed on companies found to have understated their emissions.