Defiant Hedegaard fights on after suffering EU defeat

Despite doing her best to hammer home the point, Hedegaard was defeated in the EU parliament on Tuesday.

By Anders Lorenzen

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard suffered a heavy defeat on Tuesday when MEP’s voted no to the back-loading proposal tabled by her department in November. It would have postponed the auction of 900 million allowances for the period between 2013-2015. Hedegaard had hoped back-loading would revitalise the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) of which the carbon floor price have dropped to such a low price that it was not deemed effective. By making less allowances available the value of the remaining allowances would automatically increase; it was hoped that this would achieve a carbon floor price of €25-30 which is anticipated being the minimum price needed for the scheme to have any effect.

After the vote, which saw 334 MEPs voting against and 315 for, Hedegaard vowed to fight on and released following statement:

”The Commission of course regrets that the European Parliament has not approved the back-loading proposal. However, it is worth noting than when it was suggested in the second vote that the Parliament finalised its rejection right away, this was not supported. The proposal will now go back to the Parliament’s Environment Committee for further consideration. Europe needs a robust carbon market to meet our climate targets and spur innovation. The Commission remains convinced that back-loading would help restore confidence in the EU ETS in the short term until we decide on more structural measures. We will now reflect on the next steps to ensure that Europe has strong EU ETS. In doing so the Council’s position on the proposal will be an important factor and I take note of the Irish Presidency’s reaction today to urgently pursue and conclude discussions among Member States. The market, the investors and our international partners are all awaiting.”

Campaign infographic comparing the price of a hamburger to a tonne of CO2 prior to the vote.
A hamburger is now more expensive than a tonne of CO2
Following today’s announcements, the carbon floor price plummeted to new lows and discussions turned farcical with jokes circulating on Twitter that hamburgers were now cheaper than a tonne of CO2 at it’s all time low at €2.63 per tonne.

Even though the UK was in favour of back-loading, reports suggest that Conservative MEP’s voted against the proposal. The Irish government, which currently holds the EU Presidency, was also in support of back-loading, with Irish Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, stating the following before the vote: 

‘’The ETS is Europe’s flagship response to greenhouse gas mitigation”, “and the extent to which its effectiveness is now undermined by the economic downturn is a regrettable setback to Europe’s progressive transition to a competitive, low-carbon economy.  Early and cost-effective transition is key to Europe’s leadership on climate change and European competitiveness in the emerging global green economy.”

WWF & EU Greens supporting the back-loading proposal.

Twitter reactions
Environmental campaigning group WWF, who alongside the EU Greens had campaigned in support of back-loading, echoed Hedegaard’s sentiments, tweeting: ‘’We will be back’’

Other industry reactions from Twitter:

Thomas Lingard, Unilever’s Global Advocacy Director, expressed concern for businesses taking a pro green stance:

Today’s vote on the EU ETS is a kick in the teeth for all those businesses taking a leadership position on eco efficiency and climate #EUETS

Mauricio Bermudez, Director of Carbon Markets and Offshore Wind at Accenture:
MEP’s rejection of #EUETS fix is very bad news for hard fought initiatives on #carbon regulations globally.

Anthony Hobley, Global Head at Norton Rose
Do MEPs know what they have done in rejecting #EUETS #backloading proposal? Have they killed market appr’ch & unlocked door to alternatives?

Bad day for the green economy

Supporters of the green economy and business who are investing in a low carbon future, will view this development as a heavy defeat as it almost sends out the signal saying that it pays to pollute. It also highlights how divided Europe is on moving to a low carbon future. The EU has for years been a leader on climate policies, but with yesterday’s news they can’t expect to retain that crown for much longer. Large economies such as the US, Japan, China and South Korea are moving forward with Carbon Tax and ETS schemes. Australia launched a carbon tax last year and earlier this year California launched an ETS scheme.

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