Part of the European Commission’s European Green Deal, “Fit for 55” aims to bring EU legislation in line with the new goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. It is essentially a set of proposals to revise and update current EU legislation and put in place new initiatives to ensure that EU policies are in line with the climate goals agreed by the Council and the European Parliament.
Following conservative-led efforts to water down some of the proposals, European lawmakers yesterday refused to adopt positions on reforming the EU’s carbon market known as the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the introduction of a carbon border tax and the establishment of a Social Climate Fund, urging Peter Liese of the European People’s Party to remark, “It’s a bad day for this Parliament.”
The EU Parliament did however agree on one key legislation from the Fit for 55, which concerns revised vehicle emissions standards; with 339 in favour, 249 against and 24 abstentions, the Parliament voted to completely ban the sale of new diesel or petrol cars or vans from 2035.
European Parliament lawmakers on Wednesday voted to support an effective EU ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, rejecting attempts to weaken the proposal to speed Europe's shift to electric vehicles. https://t.co/Ywxw2s3rpo
— Reuters Science News (@ReutersScience) June 9, 2022
It also voted to revise the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) for the aviation industry with 479 votes in favour, 130 against and 32 abstentions.
So, what went wrong?
It all started when the MEP voted against the expansion and revision of the Emissions Trading System (ETS), one of the most important legislations proposed as part of “Fit for 55.”
A cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change, the ETS is a system that puts a price on emissions released by energy-intensive industries and is considered a key tool for reducing emissions cost-effectively. It is also the world’s first major carbon market and remains the largest one.
At yesterday’s vote, the European Parliament rejected the proposal to reform the ETS with 340 votes against, 265 votes in favour, and 34 abstentions.
The other two key legistlations that did not get approved yesterday – the introduction of a carbon border tax and the establishment of a Social Climate Fund – did not actually get rejected either. Instead, their voting was postponed as they are considered to be too interlinked to the ETS reforms; the Social Climate Fund, for instance, is supposed to be partially financed from revenues that would come from reforming the ETS.
The rejection of the ETS report came after MEPs passed a series of amendments pushed by the center-right European People’s Party and its allies that would have resulted in weaker emissions cuts than proposed by the environment committee last month, and delayed the phaseout of free carbon credits.
The position Parliament appeared poised to adopt would achieve a 63% reduction in emissions from sectors covered by the ETS. But that implies a slower one-off reduction of carbon credits, removing 70 million from the market in 2024 and 50 million in 2026 instead of the Commission’s 117 million in 2024. Left-wing MEPs declared that a “red line” as it would result in more emissions in the short term.
After the conservative amendments passed, the center-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) decided to vote down the entire report rather than allow a weakened version to pass.
“You can’t ask for a vote from the extreme right in order to reduce ambition, and then ask for our vote in order to support it as a whole,” said by S&D leader Iratxe García.
The rare rejection of the ETS report could set back the timeframe for finishing the law – which the EU is racing to do this year, so it can be applied in 2023.
Pascal Canfin, chair of parliament’s environment committee, which will redraft the proposal, said negotiators will attempt to reach a new deal by June 23.
Approved “Fit for 55” proposals
MEPs did agree to completely ban the sale of new diesel or petrol cars or vans from 2035 as well as to revise the EU ETS for aviation and increase emissions reduction ambitions in the international aviation sector, which accounts for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions and 3.7% in the EU, to achieve EU and global climate goals.
As for the EU ETS and aviation, the adopted text proposes that the ETS should apply to all flights departing from an airport located in the European Economic Area (EEA) and that free allocations to the aviation sector should be phased out by 2025.
The legislation also proposes that 75% of the revenues “generated from the auctioning of allowances for aviation are used to support innovation and new technologies.”
Overall, while the EU’s key climate policies failed to pass the Parliament – for now – the MEPs agreed on banning diesel and petrol light vehicles from 2035, a significant measure, as well as on reducing emissions in the aviation sector. As said by Executive Vice-President for the European Green deal Frans Timmermans:
“The climate crisis is here, and no EU citizen needs to be convinced of this. We need to put in place measures to uphold our climate targets.”
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: European Parliament votes down EU carbon market. Featured Photo Credit: European Union 2022, via EurActiv.