BRUSSELS (AFP) - European Union plans to tackle climate change reach a crucial phase on Tuesday with votes in the EU parliament, amid fears among green groups that pressure from industry is watering the proposals down.
Members of the European parliament’s environmental committee are preparing for a ‘’Super Tuesday’’ with their votes on key issues of the proposals set to form the basis for the position of the chamber as a whole.
The parliament and the 27 EU member states must approve the ambitious environmental measures in order to finalise the plan by the end of the year.
The European Union deal will then be able to bed down a common position for key international climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of next year.
In January, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed a series of measures with the overall aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
Among the initiatives were bringing the level of renewable energy up to 20 percent of total consumption, setting strict rules on car emissions and boosting the use of biofuels.
The environmental group WWF charged Friday that Europe’s plan of action to tackle climate change was being undermined by pressure from industry and may no longer achieve its original green goals.
The results of Tuesday’s deliberations in the European parliament remain far from sure, with conservatives and socialists divided in the image of the countries they represent.
The WWF in particular criticised the ‘’manoeuvres’’ of German members of the European Parliament to ‘’delay everything’’.
Germany, Europe’s biggest car producer and producer of Europe’s biggest cars, feels the plan to oblige all car makers to reach the same average emissions target is punitive to the likes of BMW and Mercedes.
With Germany entering into an electoral period, and with its leaders very receptive to the concerns of the captains of industry, the pressure is there.
Tuesday’s votes concern three main planks of the overall EU plan; how to run the system for allocating and exchange greenhouse gas emission quotas, efforts in each member state in the non-industrial area and, thirdly, ways of developing the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.
One of the key proposals is the auctioning from 2013 of carbon dioxide emissions permits, currently handed out free to heavy industry.
This would bring an estimated 44 billion euros (61 billion dollars) per year into European coffers.
However European captains of industry fears the measures will hit them and help their overseas competitors.
They won a first victory when the EU parliament’s industry committee recently introduced a series of amendments in favour of allocating a sizeable proportion of the emissions allowances for free and rejecting penalties for countries failing to reach their national emissions targets.
Last Thursday metallurgy sector union leaders called the EU Commission’s CO2 reduction targets ‘’impossible to achieve’’, urging the European parliament to ‘’improve’’ the exchange system.
Compromise discussions between EU member states have also been seeking to make some of the proposed rules more lenient.
The WWF and Greenpeace accuse the current French EU presidency of bowing to industry pressure.
The compromise with industry, particularly German interests, is ‘’undermining everything (and) really goes in the wrong direction,’’ Daria Villagrasa, from WWF’s energy programme, told a press conference in Brussels on Friday.
The ecologists are especially concerned that the global financial crisis is also hampering their cause, with company directors more worried about saving their businesses than the planet.
Or as German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier put it: ‘’It is clear that the failure of a bank preoccupies opinion more today than global warming.’’
Manila Bulletin Online, Oct. 05, 2008