In parliament >> Connie's uphill struggle

16th April 2012


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  • Central government ,
  • EU ,
  • Carbon Trading ,
  • Mitigation

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IEMA

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies on the EU climate change commissioner's many battles

These are tough times to be the EU’s climate action commissioner. Governments across the world are protesting against Connie Hedegaard’s demand that their airlines conform to the requirements of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Threats are being made, including cancellation of orders for new planes from Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer. The possibility of a trade war looms, even though the cost per passenger of buying ETS allowances will often be less than the price of an airline meal.

The US and China are lobbying national capitals in a bid to weaken resolve, but so far the EU is holding firm, with the commissioner backed by both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

Hedegaard wants ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Authority, to end years of prevarication and put forward a plan to curb worldwide emissions that can allow a compromise to be agreed.

Meanwhile, her hopes of getting endorsement for the EU’s low-carbon road map, the framework for measures to reduce CO₂ emissions by at least 80% by 2050, have been blocked in the council by Poland, despite support for the road map from the other 26 environment ministers.

Hedegaard got a better hearing in the European Parliament, where – by a three-to-one margin – MEPs gave their backing to a cross-party deal I negotiated that specifically endorsed the road map.

In doing so, MEPs accepted that to achieve a 40% CO₂ reduction by 2040 would require a 25% cut by 2025 – the most ambitious step agreed to date.

Together with the backing of most EU governments, the MEPs’ vote gave Hedegaard the moral authority to bring forward specific proposals to reduce EU emissions even in the absence of an international agreement. She left parliament with a smile on her face, maybe the first for a while.

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