Agreement by the European Parliament on a post-2020 EU ETS reform bill risks drifting past an end-2016 provisional schedule as MEPs continue to wrangle for control of the high-profile issue.
The lawmakers are battling over which parliamentary committee should have control over the file – the environment committee (ENVI) or the industry committee (ITRE) – after failing to reach a deal on the matter ahead of the Christmas break, a well-placed parliamentary source told Carbon Pulse on Wednesday.
“In the end, this is a political decision … but so far they can’t agree, in particular within the ECR and EPP groups,” the source said, referring to the two centre-right political groupings that control more than a third of the Assembly’s seats.
“If ITRE is given exclusive competence on some elements it will probably slow down things a bit.”
The issue has now been escalated to party chiefs.
The next opportunity to resolve it will be at a meeting of the presidents of all the political groupings on Jan. 14 in Brussels. If they fail to break the deadlock, the next chance will come at a Jan 19. meeting of the chairs of the parliamentary committees in Strasbourg.
Both committees are cross-party, with a proportion of MEPs reflecting the overall composition of the 751-strong assembly, but ENVI has a record of favouring more ambitious climate policies and has been the lead committee responsible for the MSR and Backloading proposals.
Parliamentary sources have suggested that the tussle for one of the most high-stakes dossiers in the EU portfolio is unlikely to result ENVI losing the file altogether. Instead, the responsibility may be split – a notion previously rejected by Ian Duncan, the UK MEP steering the file in ENVI.
Sweden’s Fredrick Federley, Duncan’s counterpart in ITRE, is understood to be pushing for his committee to take lead responsibility for the bill’s section on the post-2020 innovation and modernisation funds – cash pots to be funded by EUA sales.
ENVI MEPs are reluctant to divide the file, fearing the political deadlock that occurred when this last happened in 2013 over a biofuels bill, which was prevented from taking the more typical fast-track route and forced into a second reading in Parliament two years later.
Bills split between committees require two-thirds majorities in both bodies to vote for a mandate to begin fast-track negotiations with member states.
As the Parliament broke in mid-December, Duncan was sticking to his initial timetable that would see ENVI vote in September and enable the reforms to be agreed by year-end, according to Parliament spokesman on Wednesday.
This ENVI vote could tee-up a fast-track trilogue procedure with the European Commission and Council of member states to thrash out a compromise, with the final plenary vote then possible in November.
The trilogue process was used with the MSR reforms last year. A similar pace for the post-2020 ETS reforms could result in a published law in late 2016 or Q1 2017.
A majority of the Parliament and the Council of member states must agree for the bill to be made law.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org