EU Parliament to Seek ‘Quality’ CO2 Decision Without Delays

The European Parliament is seeking a well-considered decision on a proposed change to the European Union’s carbon law and will vote without delays, the chairman of the assembly’s environment committee said.

Matthias Groote, who earlier this month was appointed to steer through Parliament the draft amendment that would enable the EU to curb an excess of carbon permits, said no decision has been taken yet about the exact voting timeline. The strategy to curtail oversupply in the world’s biggest cap-and-trade system was proposed by the European Commission in July.

“The votes will take place as soon as possible,” Groote, a German Socialist member of the parliament, said in an interview in Brussels today. “It’s a very important issue and timing matters but I also want to have a quality decision.”

The change to the EU legislation needs approval by the environment committee and the whole assembly, as well as qualified-majority backing from national governments. At stake are prices in the bloc’s emissions-trading system, which fell to a record low in April after a crisis hurt industrial output, boosting the glut of permits to almost a half of the average annual pollution limit in the program.

“There’s several factors we need to take into account. I want to hear from political groups, there’s a report on the ETS due to be presented by the commission and we need to see what positions the governments have,” Groote said.

Law Change

The planned law change is the first element in the plan designed by the commission and aims to reassert the EU regulator’s right to decide about the timing of carbon auctions when the bloc moves to bigger sales of permits as of next year.

In the second step the commission wants to present a draft measure to delay sales of some emission allowances at the beginning of the next trading period starting in 2013, an idea known as backloading.

Member states have so far had three meetings this month on the commission’s plan. Many nations still don’t have an official position on the amendment and the backloading measure, Poland’s Environment Minister Marcin Korolec said yesterday, adding that more gatherings will be needed.

Poland, which relies on coal for more than 90 percent of its electricity needs, is objecting to the carbon-permit supply curbs, arguing they amount to manipulating the market. Slovakia is also voicing opposition, according to two EU diplomats with knowledge of the talks. The Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Peter Necas said earlier this month his government will probably not support the commission’s plan.

Backloading Strategy

The Netherlands has also signaled it’s unlikely to back the backloading strategy, though some politicians including Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the Green group in the European Parliament, say the country may change its position after a new government is formed following Sept. 12 elections.

France and Belgium both expressed support for the plan to curb carbon oversupply at yesterday’s meeting of the Climate Change Committee, which consists of representatives of national governments, said the EU diplomats, who declined to be identified because the talks were private.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said earlier this year she was aiming for a member states’ decision on the backloading measure by the end of this year. The commission has yet to come up with a specific number of permits to be postponed at auctions. Peter Vis, head of Hedegaard’s political cabinet, said Sept. 18 the commission is working on an impact assessment into its supply-curbs proposal.

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