On Wednesday, the EU Commission presented ambitious goals that are intended to give the 27 EU countries a boost in the expansion of renewable energies and the import of liquid gas. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the urgency of turning away from Russian energy supplies. But the war in Ukraine has another effect: it threatens to slow down the EU in its current legislative work and in achieving its climate goals for 2030.
In July last year, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented a plan for how the EU can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030. The project bears the catchy title “Fit for 55”. For the plan to work, EU laws must first be passed. The legislative process between the Commission, the Member States and the EU Parliament is about to enter the critical phase.
It is precisely at this point in time that the Ukraine war and high energy prices are putting a strain on industry and private consumers. This means that parts of the EU’s “Green Deal” are also being put to the test. In the European Parliament, members of the conservative EPP group in particular are asking themselves whether the climate targets for 2030 can still be met.
EPP parliamentary group leader Manfred Weber is opposed to fundamentally shaking up the EU Commission’s goals, according to which greenhouse gas emissions in the community are to be reduced by at least 55 percent by 2030. “One must not play off one crisis against the other,” Weber told the Tagesspiegel, referring to the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. However, you have to approach the individual subject areas pragmatically, said the CSU politician.
In concrete terms, this means that the EPP Group rejects the Commission’s plan to only allow cars with electric motors at EU level from 2035 onwards. “We think it’s wrong to ban the internal combustion engine,” said Weber. Instead, the CSU politician advocates openness to technology. The oath comes at the beginning of June in a vote in the plenary session of the EU Parliament, where the EPP is the strongest group.
Another example of how the Commission’s climate targets could be softened is the planned reform of CO2 emissions trading. Slovakia’s economy minister, Richard Sulik, recently proposed temporarily suspending carbon trading in order to lower energy prices and take money out of Russia.
However, the climate expert Milan Elkerbout from the think tank Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) assumes that Sulik’s demand, like a chess game, is only an “opening move”. “There is no way that carbon trading will be suspended,” says Elkerbout with conviction.
Elkerbout’s comparison with a game of chess is indeed appropriate. The planned reform of emissions trading is considered crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the desired volume by 2030. The European Parliament is currently finalizing its position on CO2 trading.
Negotiations will then continue with EU member states such as Slovakia. Basically, while the EU Parliament shares the Commission’s ambitious climate goals, member states are more concerned with protecting their own industries – and often put the brakes on. In any case, the climate expert Elkerbout is convinced: “The competitiveness of local industries will soon be a major focus.”
However, this week has shown that even the MEPs have no great desire to burden private consumers, who have been hit by high energy prices, any further. In detail, the environment committee dealt with the expansion of trading in CO2 certificates (ETS) to include transport and the housing sector. In order to prevent private individuals from having to dig even deeper into their pockets when it comes to fuel prices and heating costs, the committee decided that the private sector should initially be exempted from the expansion of certificate trading until 2029.
In this case, it was not just the conservative EPP MEPs on the committee who advocated a compromise. The Greens, Social Democrats and Liberals in particular advocated protecting private consumers for the time being.