MEP ‘quite hopeful’ of ambitious climate vote

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Satu Hassi, the Finnish Green MEP steering a proposal through Parliament on how EU countries should share the “effort” of cutting a fifth of their CO2 emissions by 2020, is optimistic that an ambitious result will be achieved in today’s environment committee vote, despite attempts by some member states to water down the bloc’s climate policy.

Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi is vice chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee.

To read a shortened version of the interview, please click here

Could you give me your reactions to the Industry (ITRE) Committee vote on effort sharing (see EURACTIV 12/09/08)? 

I disagree with the basic points of the ITRE opinion. 

Anyway, the Environment (ENVI) Committee is the lead committee, and I’m quite hopeful that the result in the ENVI Committee will be much better in terms of the EU’s climate ambitions. 

So you don’t see any major impact on the ENVI Committee vote, notably in terms of shifting the base year for measuring CO2 emissions to 1990 rather than 2005 [a measure pushed by a number of new member states to take into account the emission cuts they achieved since 1990]? 

No. To be honest, most people who prepared this ITRE vote, they are not very familiar with the whole subject. 

And I don’t expect the Parliament to change the base year. 

Several member states have also indicated their desire to change the base year… 

I would be astonished if the Council changed the base year. 

There might be some fine-tuning, for example not taking only 2005 as the base year but rather an average of several years for which we have exact data, for example 2005, 2006 and 2007. 

But I consider that to be fine-tuning. And if the Council decides to do that, for me it’s fine, and I don’t feel that it would be a problem for anybody in the Parliament. 

There is also another discussion concerning the base year in the Council because Germany raised the point that no member countries should have higher emissions in 2020 than in 1990. Yet some of the EU 15 countries which got plus targets in the Kyoto burden sharing have increased their emissions a lot, for example Portugal and Spain. But, again, I feel that this is an issue which must be negotiated among the governments. 

I think there is no realistic capacity to produce in the Parliament any sensible alternative to the percentages. So as the rapporteur I am concentrating my work on the issues which form the general rules about how emissions are counted and how much trading between EU countries is allowed or if it is allowed at all. I am also looking at the role of CDM, the compliance system, etc. So the general rules: I’m not interested in touching the tonnes and percentages in the annex of that effort sharing. 

Are you receiving a lot of amendments? 

Yes, we do have amendments. But, as usual in European Parliament, amendments can go in all possible directions because we have all political views in the Parliament. 

Nevertheless we are very close to reaching an agreement between the political groups about some major issues, but because the deal is not yet final, I cannot disclose this yet. 

So the effort sharing proposal is much less controversial than the emissions trading proposal? 

At least there is much less industry lobbying. It is mainly governments who come to me to lobby. And as for those industry people who have approached me, the main reason for most of them was that I was the Greens’ shadow in the ITRE committee on emissions trading. So I negotiated on behalf of my group in ITRE on emissions trading. 

But is it likely that before the vote on 7 October the political groups will have reached agreement? 

If there is no agreement between the political groups on the day of vote, then we just vote. Then we just see the result, but I’m very optimistic that we will get a deal among the political groups before the votes on major issues. 

Of course there are details on which we will just vote. But it seems that the compromise which is very close to being agreed comprises the basic idea that increased flexibility means the possibility of emissions reductions trading between the member countries, but more caution with respect to Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). 

And we will most probably have a different type of cap for CDM. The Commission is proposing a yearly use-it-or-lose-it cap but most probably we’ll propose a total cap for the whole eight year period. 

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