By Kayleigh Lewis - 16th April 2013
It is time to move past the divisive and unhelpful debate around backloading and focus on the real priorities for the EU
Markus J. Beyrer
The voting result further undermines the ETS and seriously threatens the EU's declared objective of 80-95 per cent emission reductions in 2050
Gert de Block
The two-faced arguments of the centre-right MEPs about how the EU carbon market should be left to sort itself out are cynical in the extreme
By opposing necessary steps to fix these problems Tory and UKIP MEPs are effectively signalling their desire to destroy the EU's flagship climate change policy
The rejection of the backloading proposal weakens the EU emissions trading system and puts our climate goals at risk
The European parliament has rejected proposals for 'backloading' to postpone the auctioning of 900 million carbon allowances for 2013-2015, in a bid to help boost the price of 'polluters permits'.
The proposals have been much debated, with some believing that any interference in the EU's carbon market - the biggest in the world - could undermine confidence in the emissions trading scheme (ETS).
However, others feel that the temporary backloading solution would give the ETS, which is considered to be a flagship policy in the EU's climate change agenda, a much needed boost, increasing carbon prices and in turn stimulating investment and innovation.
On Tuesday, parliament rejected the proposals by a narrow margin, 334 MEPs voted in favour, 315 against, and 63 abstained. Carbon prices immediately fell by 44 per cent to a record low of €2.63 following the vote.
Matthias Groote, parliament's rapporteur on the timing of auctions, said "I deeply regret today's vote. It is the beginning of the repatriation of climate policy."
Adding, "This kind of politics plays into the hands of climate sceptics. The rejection of the backloading proposal weakens the EU emissions trading system and puts our climate goals at risk."
S&D deputy Linda McAvan said that the UK Tory party played and instrumental part in rejecting support for the EU's carbon market.
She said, "In a tight vote in the full session of the parliament in Strasbourg, most Tory MEPs chose to side with climate sceptics once again and undermine their own government's climate strategy."
She continued, "They put their fanatic euro-scepticism ahead of British jobs and our environment," adding, "This vote is a catastrophe for the environment."
Greens MEP Keith Taylor also condemned the UK's Tory party, as well as UKIP, saying, "Some MEPs want to leave the EU carbon market to sort itself out, but this simply won't work.
"The ETS is flawed and leaving it alone won't get us anywhere towards improving it. By opposing necessary steps to fix these problems Tory and UKIP MEPs are effectively signalling their desire to destroy the EU's flagship climate change policy."
His Greens colleague Bas Eickhout was more scathing, saying, "The two-faced arguments of the centre-right MEPs about how the EU carbon market should be left to sort itself out are cynical in the extreme.
"It is precisely because of centre-right politicians in Europe that the emissions trading scheme was established as a flawed market, with various loopholes, which have led to the situation we are in today.
"By opposing necessary steps to fix these problems they have caused, they are effectively signalling their desire to destroy the EU's flagship climate change policy."
Climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard also expressed "regret" about the decision by parliament, and said that the proposal will now go back to the environment committee for "further consideration".
She added, "The commission remains convinced that backloading would help restore confidence in the EU ETS in the short term until we decide on more structural measures.
"We will now reflect on the next steps to ensure that Europe has a strong EU ETS."
Josche Muth, secretary general of the European renewable energy council, said that the decision "renders the ETS impotent as a tool for shifting investments into less polluting generation technologies".
He continued, "The correct political vision could unlock investments and give new impetus for emissions reductions today and in the longer term".
Gert de Block, secretary general of Cedec, which represents 1500 local and national energy companies across Europe, said, "The voting result further undermines the ETS and seriously threatens the EU's declared objective of 80-95 per cent emission reductions in 2050."
Meanwhile, Joris den Blanken, EU climate policy director at Greenpeace, also condemned the decision, saying, "Today's vote is a historic failure. In its present form, the carbon market will not stop a single coal plant from being built.
"As long as EU decision makers cannot make the European carbon market work, member states should fill the vacuum by introducing national climate measures, such as taxes on coal use and phase-out schemes for coal-based power plants."
"It's a harsh backlash for the European energy transition and for local energy companies, which are actively promoting sustainable low-carbon technologies for generation and distribution but depend on clear investment signals," he added.
However, it wasn't just the 315 MEPs who voted against the proposals that disagree with the proposals.
BusinessEurope also welcomed the decision, with the director general Markus J. Beyrer saying that, "The European parliament expressed its support for a market-based instrument and rejected political interference.
"It is time to move past the divisive and unhelpful debate around backloading and focus on the real priorities for the EU: how to secure a cost-competitive, secure and climate-friendly energy policy for 2030."