Parliament to decide next week on strengthening key EU climate law

The European Parliament will vote next week on whether to strengthen the proposal for Europe’s key climate law, the so-called Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) – or ‘Climate Action Regulation’, the name agreed by the environment committee. MEPs will be asked to back a more ambitious starting point than the European Commission’s proposal and to close some loopholes to ensure member states actually reduce their emissions.

The environment committee already voted for countries to reduce their emissions based on a more realistic starting point – starting at 2018 emission levels, or the 2020 national climate targets, whichever is lower. The Commission did not set a limit on the 2020 targets, meaning countries that will not meet their 2020 climate targets would have to do less than those that will meet the target.

Also, the parliament’s plenary could limit at 190Mt CO2e the amount of forestry credits that could be used to offset emissions in the ESR sectors, as opposed to the Commission’s proposed limit of 280Mt. The ESR applies to sectors not covered in the emissions trading system, namely: transport, buildings, agriculture and waste. These account for about 60% of the Europe’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The regulation sets binding national emission reduction targets for the 2021-2030.

T&E’s climate officer, Cristina Mestre, said: ‘The European Parliament has the opportunity to greatly improve the Commission proposal for Europe’s key climate law. MEPs can ensure that governments will be required to take real measures to reduce emissions in the sectors not covered by the ETS such as transport. Cleaner air, greater innovation, lower energy bills and more livable cities are among the benefits that will flow from this.’

As the European Commission’s proposal stands, and with member states making full use of all the flexibilities, T&E calculates that the actual emission savings by 2030 would be 77Mt CO2e. But under the environment committee’s adopted report, the emission savings in 2030 would be 639Mt – an improvement of 562Mt on the Commission’s proposal.

Mestre concluded: ‘The Effort Sharing Regulation, if designed properly, can be a great driver for decarbonising the economy and delivering on the Paris agreement. But the plenary of the European Parliament must remain strong and support this position in the discussions to come.’

T&E also welcomed the call from the environment committee to limit the so-called ‘banking’ flexibility. As the Commission proposal stands now, countries would be able to save and carry over their unused emission allocations over the commitment period, and use these credits at the end of the period when targets are stricter. The committee sets a limit on the amount of credits than can be banked, so that member states will have to meet their annual greenhouse gas reduction targets using emission reduction measures rather than “free” credits.