Cañete: EU must become a global leader in climate action

Climate and Energy Commissioner Arias Cañete briefs MEPs on current and future climate policies.

By Dods EU Political Intelligence

Leading provider of EU parliamentary and political intelligence, delivered by an expert team of specialist researchers

12 Nov 2014

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On November 11, the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee held an exchange of views with Miguel Arias Cañete Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy for the first time since he took up his office on the November 1 2014. Discussions focused on the legislative proposals currently under consideration in the ENVI Committee which also fall under the remit of Commissioner Arias Cañete. These include the proposed reform of the Emissions trading system (ETS) and the introduction of market stability reserve, monitoring, verification and reporting of CO2 emissions from transport and the conclusion of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, the conclusions of the European Council of 23 October 2014 on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework were touched upon. Please find a summary of the debate below.

Chair of the ENVI Committee, Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), welcomed the Commissioner and gave a brief overview of the legislative proposals under consideration in the ENVI Committee on which MEPs were to cooperate with the Commissioner.

Commissioner for Energy and Climate, Miguel Arias Cañete, wanted his first public intervention to be in front of the European Parliament so that he could reiterate that his intention was to engage in an open and transparent political dialogue with MEPs. “To me this first exchange of views is the first step in the building up this dialogue. A dialogue that should be one of the pillars in achieving the forward-looking climate change policy that the EU needs” he stated. He then referred to the IPCC scientific findings which are clear as regards the effect of climate change and which sends the message that it remains “within our power to tackle climate change and limit global warming to less than 2°C”.

Next he referred to the conclusions of the European Council on the climate and energy framework of 2030, which he said created a lot of positive momentum that would assist the EU to drive forward an ambitious climate policy and lead the international negotiations towards a binding agreement at the Paris climate conference in 2015. “But first and foremost we need to work towards a swift and proper implementation of the 2030 framework. And we need to do it in a smart way, to reap the full benefits of the transition to a low carbon economy, essential for the creation of jobs and sustainable growth” he added.

Sharing his thoughts on the agreed targets, he said that he warmly welcomed the endorsement of the binding domestic greenhouse gas emission reduction target of at least 40% and its respective sub-targets of -43% for the EU ETS and -30% for non-ETS sectors. He added that what is positive is that the 40% is a binding domestic target, which means it will be achieved in the EU, so no further international credits will be used beyond 2020 and therefore all investments will be made in the EU. He was also satisfied by the principles agreed for setting the targets for the non-ETS sectors: the national targets are to be set in a range of 0 to -40% compared to 2005 emission levels and have to add up to a collective -30% in these sectors across the EU. In this respect, he also welcomed the agreement on the innovation fund for companies across the EU (NER400) and a modernisation fund for lower income Member States. Together, these funds pool over 700 million ETS allowances to be used for modernising EU's energy systems, making the EU more energy efficient and incentivising innovation in energy sector and industry.

He finally welcomed that EU leaders have endorsed the Commission’s proposal to establish a binding target of at least 27% of renewables at European level. “This gives a clear signal to investors that we intend to continue promoting strong growth in the renewables sector while enabling us to move to a more European approach for their support”.

On the other hand, he admitted that the European Commission was expecting a more ambitious agreement on the energy efficiency target. He recalled however that this is subject to a review clause having in mind the 30% target, and he thus pledged to strive to ensure that the EU approach becomes more ambitious.

He then referred to the work the European Commission has to conduct with regard to the targets agreed by EU leaders, and especially in the fields of renewables, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage (CCS), non-ETS targets and the reduction of emissions from road transport. In this respect, he expected that the Growth and Investment Package, to be proposed in the coming weeks, will be an excellent opportunity “to show our determination also on the side of climate and energy investments. He paid particular focus to the introduction of the Market Stability Reserve, on which he expected that an agreement would be reached before the summer of 2015. He added that “there are quite some interesting issues being discussed on the Market Stability Reserve, notably 1) its possible earlier start OR 2) the idea of putting the 900 million "backloaded" allowances directly into the reserve. As I have already stressed in the hearing, if there is a majority in favour in the Parliament and the Council, the Commission will not stand in the way of such changes”.

He then moved on to the international climate negotiations and the conference of December at Lima. He clarified that the conference must deliver 3 key outcomes. Firstly, ensure that all international partners put on the table their plans for individual greenhouse gas reduction efforts before end of March 2015. An international process needs to be set up in the run-up to the Paris conference to consider and analyse the adequacy and ambition of the individual and aggregate efforts. Secondly, make progress on enhancing mitigation ambition also before 2020 so we remain on track to achieve the below 2˚C objective. And thirdly, achieve a good understanding of the elements of a draft negotiating text of the 2015 Agreement. Lima must deliver on this as a preparatory step towards a full UNFCCC negotiating text.

You may access his full speech here.

Ivo Belet (EPP, BE) was satisfied that the Commissioner was in favour of allocating funds under the Juncker investment package for investments in renewables. He then asked how the review clause could be used to have a more ambitious target on energy efficiency, and what the plan B is for the European Commission after the Paris agreement. He finally wished to know when the European Commission planned to come forward with the proposal on carbon leakage post 2020.

Mathias Groote (S&D, DE) wondered how the European Commission could convince the Council to generate a climate plan that would make a difference for people. Referring to the Market Stability Reserve, he said that it should be treated differently than the plans on carbon leakage. He finally reiterated the need to work on carbon capture and storage, as it would be necessary for keeping some types of industry production – such as cement- within Europe.

Julie Girling (ECR, UK) wished to know where the European Commission is with putting together its work programme. She particularly drew the Commissioner’s attention to two pieces of legislation, the air quality package and the waste package, which are mentioned in the letter sent by Timmermans as possible to be withdrawn. “What are your views on that?” she asked.

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