MEP Canfin: ‘Fighting the climate crisis is the challenge of our generation’

"The 2030 target is not a done deal in the European parliament," says Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee. [© European Union 2020 - Source : EP]

The European Parliament will vote on Tuesday (6 October) on the EU’s proposed Climate Law, which seeks to put Europe on track to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050. “I expect the vote to be very tight,” says lawmaker Pascal Canfin.

Pascal Canfin is a French MEP for the centrist Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, where he chairs the assembly’s environment committee (ENVI). He spoke to EURACTIV’s energy and environment editor, Frédéric Simon.

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The Parliament is holding a vote on the proposed European Climate Law on Tuesday. A majority seems to be emerging among political parties to back the inclusion of the European Commission’s proposed 55% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030, so what remaining issues do you see coming up in this vote as well as for the subsequent trialogue talks with EU member states in the Council?

I do not agree with your analysis. The 2030 target is not a done deal in the European parliament. The environment committee voted in favour of a very ambitious 60% greenhouse gas reduction target a few weeks ago, and we, the Renew Europe political group, are supporting it in the plenary.

I expect the vote to be very tight as the GUE, the Greens and the vast majority of S&D and Renew will be supportive. I hope some EPP MEPs, particularly the youngest, will take their responsibility. The final result will probably depend on them.

After the announcement of China targeting climate neutrality for 2060, the European Parliament voting a 60% target for 2030 would be another message of hope.

Europe’s centre-right rallies behind 55% EU climate goal for 2030

Europe’s largest and most influential political faction, the European People’s Party (EPP), has rallied behind an EU objective of curbing greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030, anticipating an announcement next week by the European Commission.

Do you believe the climate target – for 2050 and 2030 – should be a collective one applying to the EU as a whole or to each member state individually?

The Parliament’s environment committee voted in favour of climate targets to be met individually by each member state. It’s clear that climate neutrality won’t be possible if we do not bring everybody on board.

We can’t have free riders if we are serious about climate neutrality. Even Poland now plans to shut down all its coal power plants by 2049. And we adopted in the plenary two weeks ago the Just Transition Fund regulation giving countries with a specific starting point access to additional financing.

But the Parliament also supported my amendment conditioning the access to the JTF to a national commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

In an earlier interview, you told me there was no majority in the European Parliament for anything but a 55% target for 2030: higher would be too costly and lower would be inconsistent with science, you argued at the time. Yet the Renew Europe group which you are part of now defends a 60% target. Have your views changed on the matter?

I personally tabled the amendment on 60%, so I am pretty comfortable defending it. My task, as I see it as chair of the environment committee, is to find the highest climate ambition backed by a political majority. And I’m proud that the environment committee has been capable to reach such an ambitious majority.

Let’s see now if it can win in the plenary. It would be a very strong message before the Council of mid-October when heads of state and government will discuss this issue.

EU lawmakers up the ante, vote for 60% climate target for 2030

The European Parliament’s environment committee has voted for a new EU-wide target to reduce carbon emissions 60% by 2030, setting the stage for tough negotiations with EU countries and the European Commission, which is expected to propose a 55% goal next week. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) has tabled an amendment calling for carbon offsets – carbon reduction projects in developing countries – to be counted towards the 2030 target. Do you support this amendment?

The Climate Law is about domestic action, this is where we can be the most impactful, and this is where our citizens, and especially the young generation are counting on us.

Carbon offsetting outside the EU might come in addition to our domestic action but not instead. Look at what’s happening in California: the trees planted as offsetting by US corporations are burning, meaning there is no offsetting anymore.

Let’s be serious about climate, and let’s not find an excuse not to do more right now. If we do it right it is not a constraint, it is an historical opportunity for our companies to lead the zero carbon industrial revolution.

Do you support the Commission’s proposal to include carbon removals in the 2030 target? What are the consequences of this, considering that the current target of 40% does not include removals?

This accounting methodology is referring to the Paris Agreement and this is the proper way to go to climate neutrality, which is defined as a balance between emissions and sinks.

I even consider that this approach is key to bring farmers on board as we can design tools to financially reward them when they contribute to store carbon, which is something I am pushing with Renew in the CAP reform that will be voted in a few weeks in the Parliament.

However, when you apply this methodology, it means you should enhance ambition by 2% as you start counting sinks you were not counting before. That’s why if ever the 60% target does not find a majority in the plenary on Tuesday we will support the target of at least 55% without the net option.

Fighting the climate crisis is the challenge of our generation. Between 2020 and 2050 it is our Thirty Year’s War.

Commission under fire for including 'carbon sinks' into EU climate goals

The European Commission on Thursday (17 September) defended its plan to bring carbon removals from agriculture, land use and forestry into the EU’s updated climate target for 2030, saying this was in line with UNFCCC standards.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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