The Commission’s services are engaged in intense negotiations to finalise controversial energy and climate proposals, which are under heavy attack from industry groups and some member states, who warn the plans could destroy Europe’s competitiveness. Green groups have come to the defence of the proposals.
A number of EU member states and major European industries, particularly in the energy-intensive sector, have become increasingly unnerved by the possible implications of the Commission’s proposals and have launched an aggressive lobbying effort to scale down the extent of the plans.
A major bone of contention is the revision of the EU ETS. Industry groups, such as the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) and BusinessEurope, are pushing for the continued allocation of a set amount of free permits, arguing that full auctioning of permits would be too costly and would drive factories and jobs out of the EU.
The Commission seems to have taken the concerns of industries to heart, with a leaked draft of the 23 January package indicating the possibility of either preferential treatment for the energy-intensive sector or provisions to protect the sector from outside competition from countries with less stringent environmental laws (EURACTIV 10/01/08).
Over the weekend (20 January), one Commission official confirmed the plans, saying that the EU’s aluminium, steel and cement industries would only be subjected to full permit auctioning gradually over a period of several years, reported Reuters.
Green groups argue that only full auctioning can guarantee the viability of the EU ETS, and have sounded the alarm, saying the EU’s climate policy is ‘under attack’.
U-turn on renewables?
The Commission’s thinking on renewables has come under severe scrutiny by member states and the renewables industry alike (EURACTIV 16/01/08). But the EU executive may scrap certain elements of its original plans, including the idea to force member states that fail to reach interim targets to grant third country companies access to domestic renewables support schemes, according to ENDS Europe.
The Commission’s own scientists have also cast serious doubts on the 10% biofuels target, saying it could do more harm than good (EURACTIV 18/01/08), and NGOs have slammed the EU’s biofuels commitments, saying they will lead to ecosystem loss (EURACTIV 11/01/08).
But despite reports of intense negotiations on the issue within the Commission, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel on Friday (18 January) said that a significant change in the EU’s biofuels policy should not be expected.