19 December 2008

Mixed reactions as Parliament approves EU climate deal

EurActiv, Thursday 18 December 2008

MEPs voting in plenary yesterday (17 December) triumphantly endorsed the energy and climate deal agreed by EU leaders at last week's summit, while green lobbies complained that the agreement did not go far enough in fighting global warming.


EU leaders wrapped up negotiations on the climate change and energy "package" of legislation during a summit on Brussels on 11-12 December (EurActiv 12/12/08).

The deal translates into detail a political commitment by the 27-member bloc to reduce its CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020.

Following pressure by countries such as Germany and Poland, the agreement contains numerous derogations designed to reduce compliance costs for the bloc's heavy industries and fossil fuel-dependent power sectors (EurActiv 12/12/08).

The legislative package includes:

  • Revision of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS);
  • equipping power plants with CO2 capture and underground storage technology;
  • effort-sharing targets for emissions reductions;
  • national targets for increasing the share of renewables in the EU's energy mix;
  • reducing CO2 emissions from cars, and;
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fuels.

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of the energy and climate change 'package', with 610 votes for and 60 against amid 29 abstentions.

The general consensus among MEPs was that although the original proposals by the European Commission had been watered down, agreement was crucial to the EU's chances of reaching its three targets for the year 2020: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% improvement in energy efficiency and a 20% share for renewables in the bloc's energy mix.

Much of the parliamentary debate focused on negative aspects, with the Council accused of handing out too many free emissions allowances under pressure from heavy industry and member states which rely on coal power. In addition, allowing EU countries to "offset" a substantial part of their carbon reductions by financing climate projects in developing countries was seen by some as a means of avoiding taking measures at home.

Nevertheless, talking to journalists in Strasbourg after the vote, Parliament's rapporteurs on the various dossiers upon which agreement was reached expressed satiisfaction that the adopted package was a "good start". While parts of the original proposal were weakened, others were strengthened, argued Finnish MEP Satu Hassi, rapporteur on the effort sharing proposal.

Avril Doyle, rapporteur on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS; see EurActiv Links Dossier) emphasised that the Parliament's role in the negotiations had been that of a true co-legislator. Although the European summit took place in the middle of the process, last week nothing was decided before the French EU Presidency had met with Parliament and Commission representatives the following day.


The centre-right EPP-ED Group of MEPs talked of an "historic victory for the European Parliament," which puts Europe "in the frontline in the fight to save the environment" at UN climate talks in Copenhagen next year. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe also called it an "historic vote".

The Conservatives in the European Parliament gave "two cheers" to the package, expressing disappointment over the weakening of the original Commission proposals. The Greens, on the other hand, took the view that this was simply a starting point from which the EU would have to upgrade its effort enormously.

The European Commission issued a statement in support of the final outcome, describing the vote as an important contribution towards reaching an ambitious international climate agreement next year.

"This was my second happiest day in this Commission. The happiest will be Copenhagen," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in Strasbourg. He claimed the integrity of the original environmental objectives had been maintained and warned Europeans not to be too critical, as negativity could seriously harm the EU's prospects of getting the new US administration behind an ambitious climate policy.

Green NGOs afforded the Parliament some harsh criticism for failing to ensure the ambitions of the original climate proposals were respected in the final agreement.

WWF said the package was "poisoned by the large amount of carbon credits allowed from non-European countries," focusing actions away from Europe and giving a bad example to the rest of the world. The NGO criticised EU leaders for imposing a minimal "take or break" deal on the Parliament, limiting its room for manoeuvre to improve decisions.

Greenpeace warned that the climate package could not be taken as a basis for the EU's negotiation position in Copenhagen in 2009, as it did even guarantee the achievement of the EU's emissions reduction target of 20%, let alone 30%, which it said was generally recognised as the bare minimum to combat global warming.

"The Parliament has marginalised itself by lacking the courage to make even small changes to the compromises negotiated by the EU summit last Friday. Europe promised leadership on climate, but so far it has led us up the garden path," said Joris den Blanken, Greenpeace EU's climate and energy policy director.

European industry, on the other hand, welcomed the watering down of the Commission's climate ambitions. The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) celebrated a "victory of common sense over environmental extremism," because aviation does not have to participate in the EU ETS regime until 2012.

Business Europe, however, lamented that the deal would still impose higher costs on companies, particularly SMEs, in the form of higher energy and CO2 prices and a greater administrative burden.

Euro Chlor was concerned about unclear safeguards for the European chlor-alkali industry against carbon leakage, which threatens to shift production to regions with less stringent environmental rules.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) hailed the package as a "crucial legal framework" providing investment security in the solar sector. Nevertheless, it criticised exemptions from the auctioning of emissions permits under the EU ETS, which "demonstrates that the 'polluter pays principle' is not a reality yet".

Next steps:

  • The European Council will now formally adopt the energy and climate package.
  • Dec. 2009: The United Nations Framework for Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will attempt to agree on a new global climate change deal, following the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.
© EurActiv.com PLC

Read more... Sphere: Related Content

No comments: