The Green Brief: EU Parliament hit by ‘tsunami of lobbying’

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It’s a well-known aspect of EU law-making: When key legislation comes to the European Parliament, MEPs become the target of lobbyists of all kinds seeking to influence them.

However, the amount of lobbying happening right now with the EU’s current crop of 2030 climate laws might be unprecedented.

“I can share a fact – it’s a tsunami of lobbying,” said Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the Parliament’s environment committee who oversees the passage of key files under the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ climate plan.

‘Fit for 55’ refers to the EU’s target of reducing global warming emissions by at least 55% before the end of this decade and is part of wider EU plans to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050. Both targets were enshrined into a European Climate Law last year, making them legally-binding objectives for the European Union and its 27 member states.

But as Parliament prepares to vote today on detailed legislative proposals to meet these objectives, MEPs are facing a formidable pushback by industries ranging from automakers to steelmakers and chemical manufacturers.

The automotive sector alone held 32 meetings with MEPs working on the EU’s proposed car CO2 legislation between September and March, according to data compiled by InfluenceMap, a non-profit group.

And the vast majority – 22 meetings – were held with trade associations or companies opposed to EU plans for ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars, with six supportive voices, and four mixed.

Similarly, records from MEPs dealing with the reform of the EU’s carbon market show 52 meetings were held since EU lawmakers were appointed to lead on the file. German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp, steel association Eurofer, and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) were the groups that met the most frequently with MEPs, public records show.

And according to InfluenceMap, these groups are generally opposed to EU plans for ending the current system whereby industries receive most of their CO2 pollution credits for free.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with lobbying as such, Canfin emphasised.

“We are in a democracy, we are in a market economy, it’s legitimate for a company to say ‘I don’t like it’,” he told a press briefing last week.

“But if you take all the lobbying positions of all the industries and put them together, you don’t arrive at -55%, you probably arrive at +30,” he quipped.

“To be honest, it’s irresponsible,” he said.

In an op-ed published in French daily Le Monde, Canfin singled out German carmaker BMW and trade association Eurofer for seeking to “torpedo” the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ climate package.

Trade associations are often seen as the worst because they tend to align with the least ambitious of their corporate members.

This has led some companies to question associations like BusinessEurope, which has been described by some as “reflecting very much an extreme lowest common denominator” among the business community.

“The evidence overwhelmingly shows ambitious climate policies can drive economic recovery,” said Ursula Woodburn, head of EU relations at CLG Europe, a group of businesses lobbying to accelerate climate action. “In this context, attempts to weaken the reach and ambition of the ‘Fit for 55’ file of legislative measures are a retrograde step. We are already late to the climate crisis, and to hold up the progress in this package places short-term returns over long-term economic and social stability.”

Canfin is not the only MEP denouncing pressure from lobby groups.

Others, like Michael Bloss (Greens, Germany) and Delara Burkhardt (S&D, Germany) have also complained about pressures from parts of industry which they say “are using people’s fears” about food shortages or high energy prices to scale back the ambition of the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ package.

Worse still, company CEOs may sometimes take green stances in public speeches while their public affairs representatives in Brussels defend opposite positions in closed-door meetings with EU policymakers, Canfin said.

“That’s what I tell students: before joining a company, look at their public affairs positions. Because sometimes, it is more or less the opposite of what is being said in nice Davos-style groupings.”

Disagreeing with policy is fine, Canfin said. But what lobbyists often fail to do is make alternative policy proposals that have the same climate effect as the EU’s original plan.

“So, we have to counter this tsunami of lobbying and stay firm on our climate ambition. Because at the end of the day, beyond all the regulations that are on the table today, there is something much more important than that, which is our capacity to live on this planet,” Canfin said.

– Frédéric Simon


This week’s top stories

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News from the capitals

VIENNA. Austria to support companies affected by Russian gas exit with €400 million. The government will cover new costs arising from diversifying gas suppliers, and infrastructure revamps by disbursing €100 million to companies per year from 2022 to 2025. Read more.

ATHENS. Commission, Greece lost in translation over seizure of Russian ship transferring Iranian oil. The European Commission and Greek authorities cannot answer whether the seizure of the Russian tanker that transported Iranian oil from Greece constitutes a violation of European rules. The seizure was also why the naval forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran (IRGC) seized on 27 May two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, causing turmoil in international shipping. Read more.

LISBON. Energy sector is Europe’s greatest weakness, says Portuguese PM. The energy sector is “the greatest vulnerability that Europe has” right now, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said in Paris on Tuesday. Read more.

MADRID. Spanish government provides €7.6 billion for direct investments in mobility. The Spanish government has earmarked over €7.6 billion from its post-pandemic recovery plan to boost direct investments in transport and mobility, a sector transforming as it faces the challenge of sustainability, according to Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda Minister Raquel Sánchez. Read more.

WARSAW. Polish households to receive subsidies to weather coal shortages, price hikes. Polish households will receive subsidies to weather the impact of coal shortages and high prices, according to one of the several support measures announced by Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa on Tuesday. Read more.

BRATISLAVA. Nuclear energy limits renewables growth, says Slovak ministry. The high share of nuclear power in Slovakia’s energy mix, the capacity of the transmission network and the negative perception of the population, are the main reasons for the slow development of renewable energies in Slovakia, an analysis published by the environment ministry shows. Read more. 

BELGRADE. EU sanctions fallout: Serbia to stop receiving Russian oil via Adriatic pipeline. Oil company Naftna industrija Srbije (NIS), of which 56.15% of the share capital is owned by Russia’s Gazprom Neft, will no longer receive Russian crude oil from the Adriatic oil pipeline JANAF following the EU’s latest set of Russia sanctions, the energy ministry announced Sunday. Read more

BELGRADE. Serbia, Russia agree to gas deal in principle, Lavrov says. Serbian President  Aleksandar Vučić and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed the terms of gas supply arrangements and reached an agreement in principle, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Bosnian Serb entity TV on Sunday in an interview. Read more.

ZAGREB. Sunken Adriatic platform leaks gas, Greenpeace Croatia warns. A gas rig that sank in the northern Adriatic in 2020 may be leaking gas, possibly methane, Greenpeace Croatia warned over the weekend. Read more

BUDAPEST. Government bars Hungarian municipalities, SMEs from energy price cap. Municipalities and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) will no longer be able to enjoy the capped utility bills now exclusively available to households, Minister of Economic Development Márton Nagy announced Sunday morning on the public radio. Read more

WARSAW. Polish motorists block petrol station in protest of high fuel prices. Protests began in Poland as fuel prices reached historical highs, and experts predict further rises due to the EU oil embargo on Russia, local media report. Read more.

BRATISLAVA. Slovak refiner Slovnaft warns of impending fuel shortage in Central Europe. Slovak oil refiner Slovnaft says it cannot guarantee fuel supplies to its traditional export destinations in Central Europe under the terms of the EU’s new Russia sanction package, the company has said. Read more.

VIENNA. Austria releases oil stocks after refinery malfunction. A technical issue at oil giant OMV’s Schwechat refinery on Saturday forced the government to release strategic gasoline stocks while OMV considers what to do about its investments in Russia. Read more.

BUCHAREST. Eyeing Bulgaria-Greece interconnector completion, Romania shops for Azerbaijani fossil fuels. Energy Minister Virgil Popescu is trying to persuade Azerbaijan to increase oil and gas deliveries to Romania in an attempt to diversify Romania’s energy resources as Bulgaria-Greece gas interconnector needed for LNG supply nears completion. Read more. 

SOFIA. Bulgaria will never negotiate with Gazprom again. Bulgaria will never negotiate with Russian energy giant Gazprom ever again, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev told parliament on Thursday, adding that the contract with the company expires at the end of the year and that Russia unilaterally suspended supplies. Read more. 

VIENNA. Austrian government mulls delaying carbon tax implementation. The government is again considering whether to postpone the start date for implementing the carbon tax until October, due to high energy prices and growing criticism. Read more. 

PARIS. French PM prepares ‘emergency law’ for climate, reducing Russian fuel. New Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is preparing an “emergency law” to tackle global warming and reduce France’s Russian fossil fuel dependence, she announced Thursday. Read more. 

ROME. Italian government mulls new excise tax cut as fuel prices soar. The government is considering expanding the excise tax reduction, which will expire on 8 July, Economy Under-Secretary Maria Cecilia Guerra told broadcaster Rainews 24 on Wednesday. Read more.

DUBLIN. Urgent action needed if Ireland to meet climate targets, agency says. Urgent and additional measures are needed if Ireland is to meet the climate targets it has set for itself, the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said in a newly released report. Read more.

STOCKHOLM. Sweden’s former environment minister slams government’s green policies. Sweden’s former Environment Minister Per Bolund criticised the government’s climate policy ahead of the “Stockholm+50” UN climate meeting in the capital on Thursday and Friday. Read more. 

THE HAGUE | BERLIN. The Netherlands, Germany announce joint North Sea drilling operation. The Netherlands and Germany will drill for gas in the North Sea together, with production expected to start in 2024, the Dutch government has announced. Read more. 


News in brief

Industry CEOs call for looser carbon market rules. Almost 300 CEOs from energy intensive industries – mainly steel, glass, paper, and chemicals – have signed a joint letter addressed to EU lawmakers ahead of a key vote in the European Parliament on the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

The signatories, representing 400 EU manufacturing companies, expressed their concern with the ETS and CBAM proposals which they say risk hurting their competitiveness on global markets.

Instead of the current proposal to phase out free allowances for industry, they are asking for “predictable measures and realistic timelines”.

“Step changes risk overburdening companies before they can implement the necessary investments and develop the markets for low carbon products. In this regard, the latest proposals on ETS and CBAM weaken carbon leakage provisions, further increase unilateral regulatory costs and harm the competitiveness of European industries in EU or international markets,” reads the letter. The full letter can be accessed here. (Valentina Romano | EURACTIV.com).

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Pressure mounts ahead of Parliament’s ‘Fit for 55’ vote. Ahead of the European Parliament’s key votes today on the Fit for 55 climate package, lawmakers have been attempting a final push to support their views.

On Tuesday (7 June), lawmakers debated new and reformed laws, proposed by the European Commission in July, including an overhaul of the carbon market, a new carbon border levy and a reform of land use and forestry legislation. Today, they will vote on their approach to these topics before entering into negotiations with EU countries to finalise the adoption of these laws.

Ahead of the vote, the European People’s Party lawmaker Peter Liese put out a statement about the importance of tackling climate change, saying that a “great deal” has been achieved in reforming the carbon market.

Meanwhile, the Greens have been very active, launching a tracker of the voting procedure and suggesting what amendments to follow.

On land use and forestry, the rapporteur for the LULUCF regulation, Ville Niinistö, told EURACTIV: “The European Parliament has a historic opportunity to show leadership towards climate-smart and sustainable land use by supporting the environment committee’s progressive report on carbon sinks in the LULUCF regulation. By adopting this view, it promotes the increase of carbon farming in agriculture, more sustainable forest management and restoration of nature in the benefit of both biodiversity and carbon sequestration.”

Meanwhile, Henrike Hahn, the Green rapporteur for the economy committee’s opinion on the social climate fund said: “A green transformation of the economy must be socially just. The Social Climate Fund is now tackling energy and mobility poverty with structural and direct investments – exactly where people in Europe are hurt the most. This will also be necessary if the emissions trading system is extended to the building and transport sectors, as proposed by the European Commission.”

The European Commission is also weighing in. EU climate chief Frans Timmermans spoke to lawmakers in Strasbourg, saying: “I would urge you to vote for a consistent package to reach our climate targets and also I would urge you to make sure that in doing this, we leave no one behind. Our policy will be just or there just will not be a policy,” he said. (You can read his remarks on the emissions trading scheme and Fit for 55 here and on CO2 standards for cars and LULUCF here).

The Fit for 55 package is made up of many complex and interlinking proposals. Lawmakers will have a day to vote in quick succession on their positions. Meanwhile, the need to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, high energy prices and climate change have put increased pressure on these files. (Kira Taylor | EURACTIV.com)

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Czechs to prioritise ‘energy security’ at EU helm. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that the EU “is able to respond decisively” to new threats, according to a draft memo circulated by the Czech Republic ahead of its six-month EU Council presidency starting on 1 July.

Still, the Russia crisis has shown that Europe must “find the courage to rethink and reevaluate many of our current approaches” taking into account the EU’s diversity, the document adds.

The first priority of the Czech EU Presidency will be to manage the flow of refugees coming from Ukraine and preparing for the post-war recovery. On energy security – the second priority – this means breaking the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and swiftly adopting EU rules on gas storages ahead of next winter.

“The Czech Presidency will put emphasis on the EU’s energy security issues, which are currently more pressing than the energy transition,” the memo says. It adds, however, that this also means accelerating the implementation of the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan, “an important part of which is diversification of sources including logistics, energy savings and acceleration of the transition to low-emission and renewable energy sources.”

“However, the Czech Presidency will focus especially on thorough implementation of the main short-term objective, i.e. remove dependence on Russian fossil fuels,” it says, citing the crucial importance of developing “transmission infrastructure” for the EU’s energy resilience. More on the Czech Presidency priorities here. (Frédéric Simon | EURACTIV.com).

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7 EU countries decry lack of ambition on shipping decarbonisation. 7 EU member states have released a joint statement criticising the French EU presidency for its lack of ambition in decarbonising shipping.

Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Sweden have highlighted their support for the objective of the FuelEU Maritime Initiative, while at the same time asking for a “more proactive legislative framework”.

As part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package of legislative proposals, the FuelEU Maritime Initiative seeks to decarbonise the EU maritime sector by limiting the carbon intensity of the energy used on board ships, setting up a fuel standard for ships and introducing a requirement for the most polluting ship types to use onshore electricity when at berth.

“The unambitious compromise delivered by the French presidency left many countries dismayed,” said Faig Abbasov, Shipping Director at Transport & Environment, a clean mobility NGO.

“The Council position shows that EU member states have failed to practise at home the shipping decarbonisation targets they preach internationally. Above all, it missed an opportunity to put around a quarter of a million tonnes of green hydrogen to be used in shipping every year by the end of this decade,” he added.

The joint statement asks for higher greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets within FuelEU Maritime, an increase in incentives towards the use of clean and renewable fuels in maritime transport, as well as higher ambitions for the EU Member States. (Valentina Romano | EURACTIV.com).

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Revision of Energy Taxation Directive voted on in ITRE. A revision of the current EU taxation system for energy products and electricity was voted on 2 June by the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) with 55 votes to 9, and 11 abstentions.

The revision of the Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) was tabled last year by the European Commission. The proposal introduces a new structure of tax rates based on the energy content and environmental performance of fuels and electricity, as well as broadening the taxable base through the inclusion of more products and the elimination of some of the current exemptions and reductions.

The proposed switch to a taxation base according to energy content is aimed at encouraging the use of electricity and alternative fuels, and discourage incentives for petrol and diesel.

The adoption of the proposal in the EU Council of Ministers will be challenging because it requires unanimity among the 27 EU member states. Read our previous coverage about the directive here and here. (Valentina Romano | EURACTIV.com).


Opinions


Upcoming events

9 JUNE. Media partnership – The revision of the EU’s packaging and packaging waste rules. The upcoming revision of the EU’s packaging and packaging waste law offers an opportunity for sustainable packaging solutions to advance the EU’s climate neutrality and circular economy objectives. Join Emiliano Micalizio of Ramboll, Elsa Agante of Euroconsumers and Ronan Breen of Delivery Platforms Europe/ Deliveroo Europe to find out more. Programme and registration here. (Organised by the European Paper Packaging Alliance in partnership with EURACTIV)

13 JUNE. How to achieve a socially just EU renovation wave? Renovating public and private buildings has been singled out in the European Green Deal as a key initiative to drive energy efficiency in the sector. Join this EURACTIV Hybrid Conference to discuss how a socially just renovation wave can be achieved, with Adela Tesarova, Head of Unit for Consumers at the European Commission’s energy department, Professor Stefan Bouzarovski from the University of Manchester, the managing director and senior researcher at the Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy (IEECP) Vlasis Oikonomou and more. Programme and registration here. (Supported by IEECP)

14 JUNE. Green ICT – How can the digital sector accelerate the green transition? Join this EURACTIV – GIGAEurope Digital Debate to discuss how, through collective action and multi-stakeholder approaches, we can enable a green and digital transition that works for all. Speakers include Daniel Mes from Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans’ cabinet, Ilias Iakovidis, the adviser for Digital Aspects of Green Transformation at DG CONNECT and more. Programme and registration here.

14 JUNE. Does Germany need a new forest policy? Potential and problems of the forest strategy 2050. Germany is one of the most densely forested countries in Europe with forests making up almost 30% of the total area. Former agricultural minister Julia Klöckner put the 2050 forest strategy in place, which included the economic use of wood. With the new German government in place, must it revamp the forest strategy? Join MEP Ulrike Müller, Stefanie Schmidt from the European Commission’s environment department and more to discuss further. Programme and registration here. The event will be in German. (Supported by Life Terra)

15 JUNE. Mind the gap – can biofuels play a strategic role in reaching EU energy and food security? Join this EURACTIV Hybrid Conference to discuss how the EU can maintain its commitment to achieving its Fit for 55 climate and energy goals in an uncertain geopolitical situation. And what is the evolving role of low-carbon renewable fuels in achieving EU climate and energy goals. Programme and registration here. (Supported by ePURE).

28 JUNE. Media partnership – GRIDTECH 2022. Gathering a broad range of decision-makers and European energy stakeholders, the GRIDTech 2022 conference will be the occasion to assess the possible strategies and measures to support the key EU policy tasks. Join MEP Jerzy Buzek, Mechthild Wörsdörfer from the European Commission’s energy department, and more to discuss further. Programme and registration here. (Organised by Eurogas and GIE, technical partnership of ENTSOG, in media partnership with EURACTIV).

30 JUNE. Security of gas supply – what role for gas infrastructure? Join this EURACTIV Hybrid Conference where stakeholders will discuss the policy tools that can strengthen EU security of supply. Topics to be addressed include how gas supplies can be secured in the most efficient and sustainable way, what is the role of gas infrastructure, and what are the solutions to transport and store renewables and low-carbon molecules over long distances. Programme and registration here. (Supported by Gas Infrastructure Europe). 


On our radar

8 JUNE. European Parliament vote on eight ‘Fit for 55’ files, including the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). Read the full agenda here.

15 JUNE. 2022 Strategic Foresight Report.

22 JUNE. Nature protection package (tbc):

  • Sustainable use of pesticides – revision of the EU rules
  • Protecting biodiversity: nature restoration targets 

27 JUNE. Energy Council.

28 JUNE. Environment Council.

5 JULY. New design requirements and consumer rights for electronics (tbc).

20 JULY. Circular Economy Package 2:

  • Policy framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics
  • Review of the Packaging and packaging waste directive to reinforce the essential requirements for packaging and establish EU level packaging waste prevention measures and targets
  • Review of the Urban Wastewater Treatment directive
  • Proposal for a Regulation on substantiating environmental claims using the Product/ Organisation Environmental Footprint methods (green claims)

20 JULY. Development of post-Euro 6/VI emission standards for cars, vans, lorries and buses

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