MEP COP26 Delegation welcomes French decision to join declaration on Clean Energy Transition

French announcement on eve of Glasgow climate conference climax, ‘very good news’, says European Parliament’s delegation leader, Pascal Canfin
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By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

12 Nov 2021

With the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow reaching its climax on Friday, fossil fuel subsidies were at the heart of negotiations during the last two days.

“The COP must send a clear signal to halt fossil fuel subsidies”, the EU’s chief negotiator, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told the last COP plenary session in the afternoon.

Earlier in the day, French Minister for Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili, had announced that her country has decided to join the COP declaration on Clean Energy Transition, bringing forward the end to French public financing for fossil fuels from 2035 to 2022. “#Formidable et un grand merci”, UK COP26 envoy John Murton tweeted.

Many of the European Parliament’s delegation agreed, with delegation leader and chair of the Parliament’s influential Environment (ENVI) committee Pascal Canfin commenting: “Very good news! It was indeed difficult to understand why France was not on board”.

The delegation’s, S&D Group representative Mohammed Chahim called the decision a “much needed step”, while Green/EFA Group delegate Bas Eickhout said: “Finally! If you are consistent, you can't call gas a green investment anymore. Looking forward France!”

Much to the annoyance of European legislators, the EU’s stand on the issue had been put in doubt on Thursday, when it transpired that a draft list of cross-border energy infrastructure, known as projects of common interest (PCIs) which the Commission is due to present next week, included 30 gas projects, pre-selected for funding worth €13bn.

Earlier in the day, French Minister for Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili, had announced that her country has decided to join the COP declaration on Clean Energy Transition, bringing forward the end to French public financing for fossil fuels from 2035 to 2022. “#Formidable et un grand merci”, UK COP26 envoy John Murton tweeted

At a debate during Thursday’s mini-plenary session in Brussels, several MEPs vented their frustration about the new PCIs list, the fifth of its kind.

Slovak Renew Group deputy and environmental activist Martin Hojsík commented: “Let me give you the good, bad and ugly: the good – there is no oil. The bad - you praise the smart grids, but instead of [the last list] when there were six projects, there are only five. And the ugly - obviously gas.”

Back in Glasgow, Parliament’s representatives had sounded cautiously optimistic before the last day.

In a joint press conference with Timmermans on Thursday, the delegation’s vice-chair Peter Liese (EPP) reported: “In my view, the most impressive meetings [we had] were with South Africa, where we really saw a very positive development”. The German Christian Democrat added that when they met previously at the last COP in Madrid, “I was not even dreaming that this emerging country would go for a 2050 target of climate neutrality”.

But there had also been what the veteran legislator called “disturbing” meetings: “the Chinese chief negotiator actually said, and I think he said it to several people, not only to us, that China cannot be carbon neutral before 2060 because they only peak emissions in 2030”.

Liese added: “My perception is, they excuse one mistake with another mistake. So, we will push China, that's also in our resolution, to peak much earlier and to be not only carbon neutral but climate neutral before 2060”.

In a joint press conference with Timmermans on Thursday, the delegation’s vice-chair Peter Liese (EPP) reported: “In my view, the most impressive meetings [we had] were with South Africa, where we really saw a very positive development”. The German Christian Democrat added that when they met previously at the last COP in Madrid, “I was not even dreaming that this emerging country would go for a 2050 target of climate neutrality”

Canfin contributed some insight into the MEPs’ activities in Glasgow in a video he posted on social media on Thursday evening.

He said that one of the important tasks for them was to “explain what we are doing in Europe to all our partners, with what we call the Green Deal”.

Citing Brazil as an example - the delegation had met the Brazilian minister of the environment on Wednesday - he went on to report that, “it is not a protectionist policy that would be anti-Brazilian if we want to fight against imported deforestation but, on the contrary, it is to accompany the producers in Brazil who play their role in fighting deforestation and give them and advantage to access the European market”.

At the same time, Canfin concluded, it was important to, “say clearly that we no longer want to import products that contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest”.

However, despite the Brazilian government signing a pledge against deforestation of the Amazon rain forest in Glasgow last week, destruction of the rainforest Brazil had reached record levels in 2020, it was reported on Friday.

Regarding the explanation of other aspects of planned EU climate policy, delegation members were pleasantly surprised about the lack of hostile reaction to EU policies, which they had anticipated, as Liese explained at his press conference: “I didn't meet anyone who bluntly said, ‘your carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) is a nonsense, and we will fight it like hell’”.

Apart from calling for the completion of the ‘Paris rule book’ concerning progress monitoring, the absence of which has been “like a pebble in a shoe for years now” as he called it, EU chief negotiator Timmermans summed up the task ahead at the final COP26 plenary session: “We need to be able to say [at COP27] in Egypt next year, that we are on track for [a global warming] of 1.5C. That’s what we need to do between now and next year”

His colleague Mohammed Chahim - Parliament’s rapporteur on the CBAM proposal - reported from Glasgow on his web page on Thursday, mentioning two countries which will be particularly affected by it:

“Turkey and Russia are two countries that export many carbon-intensive products to the European Union. The carbon tax therefore applies to them unless they start taxing their own emissions”.

The Dutch socialist added that to encourage these countries to take national climate measures themselves was an “additional purpose of this tax”, and that he found the meetings with their delegations “particularly interesting”.

Apart from calling for the completion of the ‘Paris rule book’ concerning progress monitoring, the absence of which has been “like a pebble in a shoe for years now” as he called it, EU chief negotiator Timmermans summed up the task ahead at the final COP26 plenary session: 

“We need to be able to say [at COP27] in Egypt next year, that we are on track for [a global warming] of 1.5C. That’s what we need to do between now and next year.”

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