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EU Committee’s Carbon Vote May Be Close Call, Turmes Says

The result of today’s vote on the European Parliament’s industry panel on the European Union carbon-market fix is difficult to predict, according to its member Claude Turmes.

Turmes, a Luxemburgish member of the Greens group, said in an interview that he is trying to muster a majority against a draft resolution to object to the EU emergency plan to help carbon prices rebound by delaying auctions of 900 million carbon permits. The proposal is scheduled for a vote in the industry panel, known as ITRE, after 10 a.m. in Brussels as a part of scrutiny of the measure in the Parliament.

Should the resolution to object win support in ITRE, which has an advisory role on the market fix known as backloading, it will be sent for a vote to the Parliament’s environment committee, which leads parliamentary work on the measure. A rejection of the resolution today would give the environment committee the green light to seek a shortening of the scrutiny period from the typical three months. That would enable an early start to carbon-permit auction delays.

“Even if the resolution to object to backloading passes in ITRE, it will be overruled in the environment committee,” Turmes said. “There’s a clear majority.”

The course of the scrutiny will determine the starting date of the carbon-market rescue plan. Should the three-month scrutiny period be shortened, as requested by the European Commission, backloading could begin in March and the EU would postpone 400 million carbon permits this year. If the evaluation is not accelerated and backloading begins in the second quarter, 300 million allowances would be delayed at auctions.

Scrutiny Period

An objection in ITRE may pose a risk to the plan to shorten the scrutiny period but derailing it will require an additional decision in the committee, under the Parliament’s rules. To accelerate the scrutiny, heads of committees in the assembly would need to back a recommendation by the chair of the environment panel to ask the plenary for early non-objection to backloading, according to the rules.

The proposal to be voted today in ITRE is to object to backloading on the grounds that is not in line with EU law. Should it be adopted, a decision by the committee’s head to oppose a shorter scrutiny period in the next stage of the process would need support from coordinators of political groups in ITRE.

Opponents of backloading are not strong enough to prevent the measure from being enacted during its scrutiny in the Parliament, Turmes said. In December, members of the assembly voted 385 in favor of a law to enable backloading, 284 were against and 24 abstained. The market-fix implementing regulation, which is now subject to the evaluation, was backed by national governments on Jan. 8.

“I’m also confident that an objection wouldn’t stand a chance in the plenary,” said Turmes. “It’s just filibustering by some extremist opponents. There was quite a large majority in favor of backloading in December.”

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