Several EU environment ministers on Monday called for a review of the bloc’s 2030 emission goals following a successful December UN climate conference, a move that raises the prospect of deepening the 40% reduction target or changing plans to give free carbon allowances to industry.
“Some expressed the wish to deepen the discussion in the light of the outcome of the Paris climate conference,” said Luxembourg’s environment minister Carole Dieschbourg, who was chairing the Environment Council meeting as her country currently holds the EU presidency.
Five nations – Finland, France, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovenia – made the calls during a morning segment of the day-long talks.
EU leaders last year agreed on a Paris contribution of an emission reduction of at least 40% under 1990 levels by 2030. The subsequent post-2020 ETS reform proposal aims to regulate around half of that effort.
But the European Commission’s proposal makes no reference to actions in other countries, a considerable change to pre-2020 ETS law that included provisions to deepen overall 2020 emission reduction targets to 30% from 20% if comparable emission goals were made by other major economies.
France’s Environment Minister Segolene Royal said in an emailed statement that the ETS proposal must take into account the developments of carbon pricing in the rest of the world, which she said should enable the bloc to scale up its own ambition.
While Royal’s remark suggests deepening the EU goal, Poland’s comments were more defensive and raised the prospect that more carbon leakage protection be given to EU industries if other nations fail to match the bloc’s efforts.
“The situation of the EU industries should be thoroughly assessed in March 2016 … Additional help to industries beyond proposed rules of free allocation should not be ruled out,” said Marcin Korolec, Poland’s top climate official, during the webstreamed roundtable debate.
CASE FOR CHANGE
For environmental campaigners, the evidence is emerging ahead of Paris that the EU can easily deepen its emission goal and scale back free allocation.
Louisa Casson of E3G last week pointed to findings from the bloc’s in-house European Environment Agency (EEA) that said the EU is projected to cut its emissions 24-25% under 1990 levels by 2020.
“The news that the EU is on track to significantly overachieve its 2020 climate target means Europe can afford to move beyond its cautious offer for 2030, which doesn’t factor in this higher starting point,” she said.
The case for continued free allocations is also weakening as more nations take action, according to Femke de Jong of environmental campaigners Carbon Market Watch.
“Countries responsible for more than 85% of global emissions have submitted their climate plans (INDCs) for the post-2020 period, and major economies -such as China, South Korea, several US and Canadian regions – have started emissions trading or will soon do so. Where can the carbon still leak to?” she asked in an emailed statement.
Despite its proposal to secure free allocations for industry until 2030 as a means of protecting firms exposed to carbon leakage, the Commission recognised in its accompanying impact assessment that global action might eventually mean the support is no longer required.
“The more countries taking action against climate change, the less there is a need for individual countries to provide free allocation,” it said in the study released in July.
In setting the overall target, EU leaders also agreed free allocations would continue only “as long as no comparable efforts are undertaken in other major economies.”
Yet some EU industries insist that even with the proposed free allocations to 2030, their industries face ruin without expanded carbon leakage support.
“Recent research shows that the proposal would cost the industry around €34 billion in direct and indirect carbon costs between 2021 and 2030, wiping out the industry’s already squeezed margins,” said Axel Eggert of EU steel industry lobby Eurofer.
“This proposal presents an existential threat to the 330,000 jobs that the industry supports,” he said in a statement.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org