In order to define the actions necessary to keep his inauguration promise to tackle climate change, US President Obama will today announce plans to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing coal-fired power plants. He is also expected to announce an end to government support for new coal power plants overseas. The climate ball is now in the EU's court.
"Today the US administration announces its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the single largest source in the country - coal power plants.The EU must follow suit. In recent years, we have seen a marked increase in the amount of electricity generated from coal in the EU, which is the opposite of the trend we need to see to have any chance of addressing the climate crisis." Kathrin Gutmann, Coal Policy Officer at CAN Europe.
Measures the EU must implement to reduce and eventually eliminate emissions from coal -fired power plants include structural reform of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) to help stimulate a substantially higher price of carbon to de-incentivise the use of coal. In addition, proper implementation of the Industrial Emissions Directive, including closing loopholes that provide exceptions for outdated and highly polluting coal power plants, must be prioritized to protect both the climate and human health.
"Europe can no longer hide behind the excuse of a lack of climate action elsewhere. It must increase its efforts to bring an end to carbon and air pollution, starting with phasing out all coal power plants," Gutmann concluded.
[Brussels, Belgium] European NGOs WWF and CAN Europe today cautiously welcomed the European Parliament Environment Committee's support for the proposal to temporarily curb the oversupply of emission allowances in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), a process known as "backloading". However both regret that the Parliament included measures to weaken this support in its position.
The backloading proposal will go some way toward mitigating the severe problems faced by the EU's carbon market, but deeper reform of the ETS is urgently needed.
EU climate policy officer for WWF, Sam Van den plas, said:"Today the ailing EU carbon market was given emergency treatment, as a temporary first step towards structural reforms of the carbon market. Parliament must ensure that it does not let the air out of the ambulance's tires now. Handing out more blank cheques to energy intensive industries is unnecessary and irresponsible."
In today's vote, a set of compromise amendments gained cross-party support, reconfirming the EU Commission's mandate for a one-off intervention in the carbon market. However, the amendments also contain provisions for a dedicated fund to compensate energy intensive industries, as well as a more generous definition for the sectors at risk of carbon leakage. NGOs warn these additional amendments introduce excessive loopholes and could unnecessarily complicate further negotiations with EU Member States and the Commission.
Julia Michalak, CAN Europe climate policy officer, said:"MEPs are trying to have their cake and eat it too. The backloading compromise adopted today is nothing like the proposal made by the Commission last summer. Backloading is now as full of holes as a Swiss cheese."
CAN Europe and WWF now call on the full European Parliament and EU governments to swiftly support both the ETS backloading proposal while closing loopholes for energy intensive industry, and to adopt structural reform measures to ensure the ETS can stimulate innovation, create good jobs and move us off increasingly costly and unsustainable fossil fuels.
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NGO experts from the two largest climate change networks will brief media on April 25 at 13.30GMT on the current state of play in the international climate negotiations ahead of the year's first round of UN talks. They will also preview major milestones in 2013 related to climate change, and their potential impact on the negotiations.
Experts will address the recently announced bilateral cooperation planned between the U.S. and China, as well as the U.S. and Japan. They will also address the role of the Major Economies Forum and the potential impact of the first release of an IPCC assessment report in more than five years. Lastly, experts will also address recent climate change related developments in Europe and the role of Poland within the EU, given the government will host the climate talks in December of this year.
•What: NGO experts survey the political landscape ahead of the 2013 climate negotiations.
•When: 13.30GMT, Thursday, April 25, 2013
• 9.30 in New York, Washington DC
• 14.30 in London
• 15.30 in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Berlin
• Who: Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists, United States, Lina Li, Greenovation Hub, China and Julia Michalak, Climate Action Network Europe.
• To join the teleconference, please RSVP to: rvoorhaar (at) climatenetwork.org and you will receive a local toll free number and participant code
Today the European Parliament regrettably voted to reject a proposal to temporarily revive the EU's flagging carbon market, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). With carbon prices already at all-time lows, the vote will further undermine the security of investments into low-carbon technologies.
"After broad agreement that backloading alone would not solve the fundamental problems faced by the ETS, EU lawmakers need to get rid of the surplus toxic tonnes hanging like a dark shadow over the carbon market," said Sam Van den plas of WWF. "In addition, the EU should stop handing out free allowances to a large majority of EU manufacturing industries since current carbon prices do not justify such gifts."
NGOs were dismayed that elected lawmakers caved into a small but intense business lobby and became unwilling to support a short-term measure designed to help put the right price on pollution. Without EU-wide measures, Europe faces a lost decade of climate inaction. Member states must therefore swiftly implement national policies to support the ailing carbon market and EU climate ambition.
"It's outrageous that Parliament seems to value polluting industry more than Europe's green future," said Julia Michalak of CAN Europe. "Since Parliament has made it clear that they don't support backloading, we now urge all branches of EU government to propose alternative solutions to support Europe's transformation into a low-carbon economy."
But EU ETS reform is still on the table. The backloading proposal has been referred back to the Parliament's Environment Committee, awaiting the outcome of the Commission's reflections. We call on all EU policy-makers, including the Parliament, to come up with robust proposals to increase EU climate action.
Editor's notes: Our campaign
Ahead of the plenary vote, last week NGOs staged a live carbon "auction" in front of the European Parliament in Brussels with outlandish bidders and a giant black balloon representing one tonne of CO2 emissions.
For more information on the ETS and our position on reforming the system to make it work, see our briefing 'EU ETS at a crossroads - NGO Briefing - January 2013'.
CAN Europe and WWF staged a live carbon auction in front of the European Parliament with outlandish bidders and a giant black balloon representing one tonne of CO2 emissions. An auctioneer started the bidding at 30€/tonne; but did industry bid for the climate or for cheap pollution?
The "auction" came ahead of a European Parliament plenary vote on 16 April on the "backloading" proposal for the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). CAN Europe and WWF support the backloading proposal as a necessary first step toward deep reform of the EU ETS.
[Brussels, 27 March 2013] - CAN Europe welcomes the release of the European Commission's 2030 Green Paper today  as an effort to move forward discussions on Europe's post-2020 climate and energy policy framework. The content of the paper, however, is deeply disappointing, expressing an approach inadequate to address the growing urgency of climate change, with targets reflecting barely more than a business-as-usual scenario.
"By neglecting the seriousness of the climate crisis, the Commission does not recognise the reality of the planet we are living on or the problems ordinary people are facing," said Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe. "The cost to our economy from inaction on climate change will be enormous. By setting ambitious and binding targets for renewable energy and energy savings, in addition to a greenhouse gas emission reduction target that is in line with avoiding dangerous climate change, we could begin to tackle the problem."
The Green Paper focuses mainly on issues related to the economic crisis, competitiveness and energy security, barely even acknowledging climate change. At the same time, reports from the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are telling world leaders that the economic crisis cannot be solved without tackling the climate crisis.
"Study after study shows that reducing our carbon footprint would IMPROVE the competitiveness of European industry while providing greater energy security and millions of new jobs," Trio continued. "The level of ambition needed to make the transition to a more sustainable energy system is totally missing from the Green Paper."