EU MPs' climate package vote brings little joy for industry
Brussels (AFP) Oct 7, 2008
A European parliamentary committee on Tuesday broadly approved ambitious proposals to tackle climate change, refusing to bow to industry pressure to water down the measures.
The global financial crisis and the closure of German auto factories did not prevent the parliament's environment committee from voting 44 to 20, in favour of a tough stance in talks with the 27 EU member states on how to achieve the agreed goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
The vote, though just part of the legislative process, constitutes a setback for industry, as all the amendments put forward by conservative deputies to introduce exemptions to the emissions rules were rejected by a large majority.
The conservative EPP party was itself divided on the issue with seven of its MEPs, mostly British and Dutch, with the majority while 15 -- German, French and Polish -- were against the more hardline measures.
"The negotiations won't be easy. It's not won yet, but this is the basis on which we can negotiaite," one supportive national negotiator told AFP.
Irish MEP Avril Doyle, author of the report approved Tuesday, described global warming as the biggest challenge to the world today.
"We can't wait for the economies to rebound before acting... we have to do so without delay," to the long-term problem, she said.
Several industry sectors swiftly denounced the EU parliament vote.
"Europe will export jobs and import energy intensive products, with no environmental gain," warned Patrick de Schrynmakers, secretary general of the European Aluminium Association (EAA).
"As the legislative process moves forward, EAA exhorts Parliament and member states to protect the sustainability of this important sector of the European economy."
However, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas hailed the vote for its support of the commission proposals to battle climate change.
"The climate-energy package sets an example which our international partners are watching closely, and each step towards finalising it is important," he said.
In some respects the parliamentary committee's recommendations went further than the EU Commission's package.
The parliament wants the 20 percent emissions reduction target to be raised automatically to 30 percent if there is a global agreement during talks in December 2009 in Copenhagen.
It supported the proposal of auctioning all emissions trading rights after 2013 in the energy sector, rather than allotting them for free, and 15 percent in other sectors, with the aim of 100 percent auctioning of the polluting rights by 2020.
Certain exceptions were envisaged in the most fragile industrial sectors where overseas competition is strong if the international talks fail.
Currently some 10,000 enterprises benefit from free and tradable CO2 allocations.
The member states are also calling for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors -- including cars, agriculture and heating.
And the parliamentary committee sought to impose fines on countries which do not respect their national objectives under the EU proposals -- setting their preferred penalty at 100 euros per tonnes of CO2 per extra tonne of CO2 emitted.
The members states and the parliament as a whole will have to agree on the measures before they can come into effect, with a possible December agreement mooted.
"I have a clear mandate," said Doyle, while adding, "if we want an agreement there will have to be compromise".
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