European Parliament

MEPs debate climate change and energy package ahead of key vote

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Source: European Parliament

The European Parliament debated the climate change and energy package with the Council and Commission. Most political group speakers underlined the urgency of reaching an early deal on 17 December in Strasbourg stating that climate change was the greatest challenge of our times. Other speakers said the package was not ambitious enough while one speaker questioned the science of climate change.

European Commission
 
Energy Commissioner Andris PIEBALGS said that the three institutions were close to reaching an agreement on the climate change package with only a few issues outstanding.  An agreement on renewable energy directive would make a big difference especially for Europe's energy supply.  The goal, he recalled was to have a 20 per cent share of renewable energy in the EU by 2020.  The directive would set out the goals on bio fuels and ensure access to the energy networks for renewable energy.
 
The main sticking points int the trilogue, he said, was on the 'co-operation mechanisms' and whether to introduce a review in 2014.  The European Parliament, he said, felt that such a review could undermine the certainty for investment.  Overall, there would be no changes to the binding targets by there was a need for flexibility.
 
Environment Commissioner Stavros DIMAS said that the climate change and energy package was one of the most significant pieces of work the EU had carried out over recent years. A low carbon economy would boost Europe's competitiveness and encourage innovation.  Mr Dimas said that significant progress has been made and was 'optimistic of a first-reading agreement'.
 
On the emissions trading system he recalled that the ceilings would lead to a 21 per cent reduction by 2020 in carbon emissions. On leakage, Mr Dimas underlined the importance of reaching an international agreement, and on financing carbon capture and storage, an issue close to the heart of the European Parliament, a decision had already been taken to use the reserve. 
 
Council Presidency
 
The Council presidency was represented by Jean-Louis BORLOO, French Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development and Planning, who told the House that 'the eyes of the world are on Europe this month' and that we are at 'a turning point in our history'. 
 
Referring to last night's EP-Council-Commission trilogue on the climate change package, he said 'we are now in a crucial phase in the negotiations' but the trilogue was proceeding as well as could be expected.
 
However, some difficult points remained, including the question of solidarity and progressivity in achieving the 20/2/20 targets, given the differing circumstances of different Member States and the need to increase efficiency on the electricity market without imposing a burden on consumers.
 
The minister told MEPs that three main blocs had emerged in the negotiations: the Baltic countries, which are committed under treaty to dismantling nuclear power stations, countries such as Poland which have less energy-efficient, high-carbon economies and need agreement on the progressivity timetable, and countries which are sensitive to the cost of the solidarity mechanisms.
 
He looked forward to progress being made on these issues at a meeting on 6 December in Gdansk under the French presidency and emphasised 'What we don't do today will have a higher cost in future' and 'if we make this historic change it will augur well for the Copenhagen conference and for our planet'.  
 
Political group speakers
 
On behalf of the EPP-ED group, Joseph DAUL (FR) described the energy and climate change package as a 'huge challenge' even before the financial crisis but stressed that 'we cannot afford to fail'.  He believed 'it is not impossible to win people over' and 'to get our fellow citizens on our side'.   Europe needs 'to promote eco-innovation', he said, and he was encouraged by the adoption of an agreement on reducing CO2 emissions in cars.  The key was to 'reassure our citizens about the future'. 
 
Describing climate change as 'one of the central challenges of our time', Martin SCHULZ (DE), for the Socialist group, stressed that 'the tough detailed work has been done here in this House' and therefore that 'not Sarkozy but Sacconi should get the credit' (a reference to Parliament's rapporteur, Guido Sacconi).  He stressed that the special procedure being used in Parliament to speed through the legislation was unusual and that MEPs would insist that the outcome of the negotiations, when finished, would have to be acceptable to the EP.
 
Speaking for the Liberals, Graham WATSON (UK) was pleased that 'we might be days away from a historic agreement' but he warned of those who would complain.  He said it was 'irresponsible' of Italy to claim that energy measures would push up power bills by 17%.   Concluding, he said we need the Council 'to reaffirm its commitment to the 20/20/20 targets' and we must ensure that lobbying by certain interests doesn't blight this opportunity.  In short, 'the Council must keep its word'.
 
Claude TURMES (LU) for the Greens/EFA warned: 'We will lose all diplomatic credibility if we do not have a climate change package that looks to the future'. The fact that Barack Obama wants to put renewable energies and green technology at the heart of the structure of the American economy represents an 'historical opportunity', he said. 'Europe has always shown international leadership. We have always set the standards for international climate policy, and now we are risking throwing it away because the highest polluting companies.' 
 
Alessandro FOGLIETTA (UEN, IT) stressed the importance of universal targets and it is up to Europe to lead the way. The 20, 20, 20 formula represents an ambitious attempt to improve our situation, he said, but 'we should be bold enough to admit that we might hamper Europe's industry if all targets are not respected multilaterally,' he said, otherwise 'it would render our efforts vain'. Measures needed to keep Europe competitive on the world stage include providing a cost benefit analysis and evaluating the effect of instruments in the climate package and the ETS directive on Europe's SMEs and the public purse, he concluded.
 
Umberto GUIDONI (GUE/NGL, IT) said that people who thought the 20, 20, 20 formula will prove too costly for the European economy 'are blind'. There are 'huge advantages' to disseminating renewable energies, including job creation, better energy use, and an improved economy. 'We need to move away from the finance-based economy - bailing out our banks, which led us to this situation in the first place,' he said. 'Public investment should focus on innovative areas in the environment and energy,' he added.  
 
Johannes BLOKLAND (IND/DEM, NL) welcomed the 'ambitious climate and energy package' and thanked the Commission for its 'untiring efforts during the negotiations'. At times, the Presidency gave the impression that it could not move substantially towards the position of the European Parliament and 'this could really damage the energy and climate package'. Some Member States are using the financial crisis as a pretext to 'water down' climate obligations, but the costs in future would be far greater, he said.
 
Roger HELMER (NI, UK) said that we are undoubtedly facing the 'greatest crisis that I have seen in my lifetime'. 'The threat is not posed by global warming,' he said, 'but by our policy responses to global warming' because 'they will have a devastating economic effect'. 'The measures we are debating today represent the greatest collective flight from reality that we have ever seen,' he concluded.

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