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Dutch MEP: Europe set to end climate ambition ‘vacation’

By John Parnell

The EU’s climate action slowdown is likely to end later this year, an MEP has told RTCC.

During the last year enthusiasm in Brussels to fix the EU carbon market has been on the wane, emission reduction targets remained static and there was a perceived shift towards economic priorities and maintaining low energy prices.

Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout said circumstances have conspired against those pursuing effective climate policies in the EU but the situation can change as rapidly as it emerged.

“I really think that September will see a change in the mood,” said Eickhout.

“The international circumstances will play a role too. We need to present our package [to the UN climate talks] in 2015 and if Europe is not taking positive steps there will be a problem. We need to get over this ‘summer holiday’ and then we will see some better attitudes again.”

Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout is confident Europe will rediscover its climate ambition before the end of the year (©Green Week)

MEPs voted down a so-called backloading proposal, designed to stimulate the EU’s flagging carbon market. Failure to raise the bloc’s emission reduction pledge for 2020 from 20% to 30% has also been viewed dimly, particularly as some interpretations of the data suggest that objective has already been achieved.

“Climate change is becoming a more difficult debate. We’re in a perfect storm working in the wrong direction. Backloading just shows that the current main instrument that we have for reducing emissions in Europe, the Emissions Trading System, is not working.

“At the same time there is a lot of hype about shale gas coming from the US, this is also delivering a lot of cheap coal, there’s an energy price debate and climate change is off the political agenda. All together, those are very bad circumstances for discussing climate and energy policies,” said Eickhout.

As talks in Bonn continue this month on a new global treaty to address emissions, many developing nations and those most vulnerable to climate change have expressed disappointment that the EU has not increased its own greenhouse gas targets.

Eickhout said he is confident that the next attempt to vote through modified reforms for the carbon market will be successful and that will kick start a more positive shift in Europe’s position.

“The situation will rapidly change as well. The Germans are not present in the debate, that will change when they have their elections in September.

“The new IPCC [climate science] report will be out around the same time, that will help to put the discussion back on the table. Shale gas hype is already receding in the US where gas prices have started going up and investors in shale in Poland have been pulling out,” claimed Eickhout.

“All these factors will change the mood but at this stage it is very difficult.

“These are the most difficult times but still Europe wants to deliver a 2030 climate and energy package. It isn’t deterred, that is important.”

European leaders are expected to start ratifying the amendment to the Kyoto Protocol agreed in Doha that extends the emissions reduction treaty till 2020.

Those with binding commitments under Kyoto, including the EU, will also ratchet up their emission reduction targets during a review process in 2014.

So far the UAE is the only country to have ratified the Doha amendment with Malta understood to be on the brink of becoming the first EU member state to do so.

China and the USA

As the Presidents of China and the USA meet in California this week, it is expected that more details will emerge of a climate partnership between the two.

“There is a danger Europe could be left behind. The USA and China moved together in Copenhagen, on that occasion it was not very successful, perhaps it was from their perspective,” said Eickhout adding that while Europe has put its focus on internal matters, it has been missing global developments.

“There is still this view in Europe that we are leading. That’s not the case anymore. Europe needs to wake up, the world is changing.

“Some will say let others take the lead but this is the moment for Europe to get its act together and step in. If we leave it to China and the USA we will never get a binding agreement. If the US and China have one thing in common, its that they hate the UN.”

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