Irish Minister Optimistic on EU Carbon Fix Success

Ireland favors a European Union plan to bolster the bloc’s emissions trading system and expects EU lawmakers to support the measure, the country’s environment minister said.

Carbon permits for delivery in December jumped as much as 14.6 percent after the comments by Phil Hogan, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency until June 30.

EU governments and the bloc’s Parliament are considering a proposal by the European Commission to delay auctions of some emission allowances in order to cut a surplus of the permits that drove prices to an all-time low.

“We are waiting for the outcome of the full plenary session vote of the European Parliament on April 16 to see how we can advance things after that, but we’re confident that there will be a success,” Hogan said in an interview during a meeting of EU environment ministers in Brussels today.

While the commission’s plan wasn’t discussed at today’s gathering, there’s growing support for the draft measure at regular meetings of diplomats from national governments, according to an EU presidency official, who asked not to be identified, citing policy.

Slovenia joined the group of supporters of the carbon market rescue plan, according to an official of the country’s representation to the EU.

Emission allowances for December closed 11 percent higher at 4.42 euros a metric ton on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. The contracts fell to a record-low 2.81 euros Jan. 24.

Backloading Plan

The commission’s strategy is to postpone the sale of 900 million carbon allowances from 2013-2015, and return permits to the market at the end of the decade in a process known as backloading.

“This is a short-term measure in order to see what we can do, to bolster the carbon price and stop it going into free-fall altogether,” Hogan said.

In the first step of the backloading plan, a carbon-law change would reassert the commission’s right to decide the timing of auctions. In the second stage, governments would consider a measure setting out the details of the delay.

The Parliament is set to discuss the law change on April 15 in Strasbourg, France, and vote on it the following day. The assembly’s environment committee backed the draft measure in a non-binding ballot in February by 35 votes to 28, with two abstentions. A majority of members from the European People’s Party, the biggest political group in the Parliament, was against the proposal.

Final Version

“Even though the environment committee was somewhat difficult on the matter” and passed responsibility for approving talks on the proposal with member states to the full assembly, “there are indications that that will happen and that we will get a short-term result on the backloading,” Hogan said.

Should the Parliament support the draft law change and authorize Matthias Groote, the lead lawmaker on the measure, to start negotiations with member states, the two sides will need to agree on a final version of the proposal. The plan will need formal approval by the plenary and by EU ministers in further votes to take place in the coming months.

Adoption of the law change would pave the way for member states to vote on a measure setting the details of the carbon-market rescue plan. To be implemented, the plan needs 255 out of 345 votes in the EU’s weighted-ballot system.

Nations are moving closer to the qualified-majority threshold, the presidency official said.

To form a blocking minority, opponents of backloading would need to muster 91 votes against it. Three countries that have objected to the rescue plan are Poland, Greece and Cyprus, with a total of 43 votes. Germany remains undecided on how to cast its 29 votes. Other countries still to adopt an official stance include Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

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