Pascal Canfin MEP: EU Climate Law must stick to 2030 timeline

"If Europe goes to Glasgow without a new 2030 target, it would be contrary to what the EU committed to under the Paris Agreement. And it would be a big setback for the Green Deal," says Pascal Canfin. [© European Union 2019 - Source : EP]

The European Commission must publish its impact assessment on the EU’s 2030 climate target in June – not in September like is currently mentioned in the draft Climate Law, MEP Pascal Canfin told EURACTIV in an interview.

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.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • With its Climate Law, Europe will be the first continent in the world to have a climate neutrality target for 2050, which is hugely important.
  • Decisions on climate will no longer be made by unanimity among EU countries, and will now fully involve Parliament, which is a big win.
  • But the Climate Law can still be improved, mainly by requesting that a 2030 target is decided in time for the November UN climate summit in Glasgow (COP26).
  • The ball is now in the court of Angela Merkel, who will take over the six-month rotating Presidency of the EU Council in July.
  • If she cares about her legacy as Germany’s climate Chancellor, she will push for an agreement on the 2030 target in time for COP26.

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What are the strengths and weaknesses of the draft Climate law?

The first strength is the most obvious: with the Climate Law, Europe will be the first continent in the world to have a climate neutrality target. And that’s hugely important.

Then, there is the law itself. Decisions for setting climate targets at EU level will no longer be taken by unanimity in the Council but by co-decision, which opens the way for more ambition because the European Parliament will be fully involved as co-legislator. That’s an important step forward.

So all this is a good starting point. But the law can still be improved on a couple of fronts and will probably be amended when it reaches the European Parliament.

First, we need an upgraded climate target for 2030 in time for the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November. And we know there is just one majority in Parliament, for a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. There is no majority below because that would not be science-based. And there is no majority beyond because going above 55% would be too fast and too disruptive for the industrial sectors concerned, for example in countries like Poland.

So I expect the Parliament to be very clear on the 55% target when the Climate Law comes to a vote in the Parliament’s environment committee that we can foresee in June, before a plenary vote in July.

LEAK: EU's draft climate law leaves 2030 target up in the air

The European Commission’s Climate Law will confirm on Wednesday (4 March) that EU countries will need to become climate neutral by 2050. But plans for 2030 leaves Europe little time to get ready for the UN climate summit in November, with twelve EU member states pushing for an accelerated timeline.

When the Commission launched its public consultation, you said the climate law should be kept short and simple in order to allow a swift adoption by the Parliament and Council. Are you satisfied?

Absolutely. The Climate Law is focused on three key things:

  • First is the 2050 climate neutrality target, and the consequences for 2030;
  • Second, the governance aspects, which matter a lot;
  • And third is adaptation, because unfortunately it’s already too late to avoid some of the consequences of climate change.

So in my view this is the right scope. The law is not too heavy, and it leaves important details regarding specific industrial sectors for later, such as new rules on CO2 emissions from cars, or the revision of the Emissions Trading Scheme, which will deal with carbon-intensive industries.

Dealing with those issues now would have turned the Climate Law into a Christmas Tree, and this had to be avoided, which is good.

That said, the Parliament will probably improve the text to make it more consistent with other EU legislations. With Articles 5 and 6, the Commission will be obliged to assess any new legislation against the EU climate neutrality objectives.

That’s a good starting point but we believe this principle should not only lead to an impact assessment but to full compliance with the EU’s climate objectives.

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The Greens and the Socialists say the lack of a specific climate target for 2030 is a disappointment. Do you agree?

I’m not disappointed because the Commission had already outlined a two-sept approach in its December communication on the European Green Deal, with a first version of the Climate Law due in March and an amended version later on.

That amended version will contain the figure for 2030, and I expect this figure to be 55%, pending the impact assessment.

But the Commission has to stick to its word and publish its impact assessment in June – not in September like is currently mentioned in the draft Climate Law. 12 EU countries have sent a letter to the Commission on Tuesday to remind the Commission about this.

The Commission must now stick to the timeline so that Council and Parliament can reach a political agreement on the new 2030 target before the COP26 in Glasgow. In my view – and in the view of those 12 member states – an impact assessment by September is too late for Glasgow. That’s why we need it in June.

All of those discussions will probably happen under the German Presidency of the EU, which starts in July this year. So much will depend on Germany’s willingness to move fast. And that’s entirely in the hands of Angela Merkel. If she cares about her legacy as Germany’s climate Chancellor, she will push for an agreement on the 2030 target in time for Glasgow. So the ball is in her court.

Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss this issue in the coming weeks. I hope we will know soon where Germany stands on this topic. If Europe goes to Glasgow without a new 2030 target, it would be contrary to what the EU committed to under the Paris Agreement. And it would be a big setback for the Green Deal.

The Commission proposes to set intermediary climate targets between 2030 and 2050 by delegated acts. Do you support this idea? And do you think the Parliament will support it?

To be honest, we haven’t discussed this in the Parliament yet. So I don’t know at this stage whether there is a majority or not in the European Parliament for such a proposal.

Personally, I see the added value of the Commission’s proposal:  once climate targets for 2050 and 2030 have been agreed between EU member states and the European Parliament, I see the interest of not re-opening the legislative cycle every five years.

But I can also understand the member states’ perspective: moving from unanimity decision-making in the Council to delegated acts adopted by the European Commission with no possibility to amend the proposal may be overstretching it a bit.

There are two sides to this debate, and at this stage, it is too early to say what our position will be.

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