Ursula von der Leyen thought to make an impression by proposing, during her speech on the State of the Union, a very ambitious objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With – 55% of carbon emissions by 2030, the President of the Commission was, she thought, taking the lead in the global climate fight and making history by chairing the Commission which would launch the great upheaval that would lead to carbon neutrality of the European continent by 2050. Twenty-two days have passed and Ursula von der Leyen is already dethroned by “greener” than she. In fact, in a classic game of one-upmanship, the European Parliament amended the Commission’s Climate Law to bring this ambition to – 60%… For the record, in 2014, the European objective was set at – 40% in 2030 by compared to the 1990 level. The new ambition is therefore twenty points above, whereas European reports already underline the difficulty of reaching -40%…
An alliance of centrist (Renew), Social Democrats (S&D), environmentalists and the extreme left (GUE) MPs narrowly won this amendment: 352 votes in favor, 326 against and 18 abstentions. The EPP Christian Democrats have been outnumbered – which is rare – due to the defection of 16 of them. The input from the 22 non-attached MPs was essential. In the EPP, 6 Poles stood out from the party line as opposed to the ultraconservatives in power in Warsaw, whose reluctance to face climate objectives is known. Moreover, Poland and others will influence the Council so that the climate objective voted by the European Parliament is revised downwards during the upcoming interinstitutional negotiations. In the European recovery plan, it is expected that 37% of spending will be devoted to climate transition.
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For the Republicans, Agnès Evren had warned the MEPs against this “race for the shallot which consists in asking 5% more than its neighbor on the right to appear as green, as ambitious as possible”. The EPP is indeed worried about the impact on employment and the adaptation measures that companies will have to take with the risk of relocation and carbon leaks. “I refuse to be in ideology, in political display or in incantations,” she concluded.
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However, the next day, when voting on the entire text, Agnès Evren put this disagreement aside and validated the Climate law. “Because apart from this objective, this European Climate Law is good,” she explained, “especially thanks to the work of Mairead McGuinness (*) and the EPP. The final ballot is therefore 392 votes in favor of the Climate law, 161 votes against and 142 abstentions. In fact, it all depends on how we perceive the adaptation of our lifestyles and production to climate change: either, we consider that it is a necessary punishment and we adapt by dragging our feet, or we consider that this is a great opportunity to create new jobs and develop new, lean technologies that will then be sold around the world. The two perceptions cross Parliament and the Member States. For those who rely heavily on coal, like Poland, there is great concern about the social repercussions. In Warsaw, we know very well that Brussels will not be able to pay for the entire conversion of the coal mines … The ecological transition requires a long-term vision when the heads of state and government have the next election as their horizon.
Timmermans: “It’s going to be really hard to do! “
Parliament also calls on the Commission to propose “by May 31, 2023” an EU-level trajectory on how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 by setting new intermediate targets for 2040. China has just adopted a carbon neutrality objective by 2060.
On behalf of the Commission, Commissioner Frans Timmermans pleaded vigorously for a target of -55% in 2030, which he already felt was essential. “It’s going to be really hard to do! And we are going to ask for sacrifices from everyone: from industry, from citizens, from the transport system, etc. This is a difficult work ! But it is within our reach. And the sooner we start, the less it will cost. The sooner we start, the sooner we will reap the benefits (…). But imagine for a second, the cost of non-action. »And to mention the multiplication of heat waves, storms, floods which cause much greater damage.
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The ID group (Rassemblement national) voted against the Climate law. In the hemicycle, the deputy RN Catherine Griset summed up the group’s position in these terms: “Your eagerness to make Europe the first carbon neutral continent is ideological. Our current path of 40% is already almost impossible to achieve. By raising it to 60%, you will impose a punitive ecology on companies and households weakened by the crisis, for the sole benefit of our competitors. We must give ourselves the means to achieve our ambitions: recourse to nuclear power, confidence in technological innovation, the fight against unfair foreign competition and a gradual energy transition taking into account national realities. Climate neutrality must come from a collective effort led at the level of States, guided by legitimate ecological concerns but also by the interests of our peoples. “
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(*) Mairead McGuinness, until now Member of the European Parliament, was dubbed, Wednesday, October 7, European Commissioner in charge of Financial Services to replace his Irish compatriot Phil Hogan, who resigned.