European Voice: A vote in favour of the climate - 11 April 2013
Why MEPs should support ETS backloading.
As the EU's emissions trading scheme 'backloading' proposal, to temporarily take some pollution permits off the carbon market, edges closer to a full vote in the European Parliament next week, the ETS continues to be the subject of much debate in Brussels.
In the opinion piece “Turning point for ETS” (14-20 February), CAN Europe and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) pointed out the many benefits of a robust carbon market, eliciting several passionate responses. In “Time to scrap ETS in favour of effective climate measures” (21 February), the authors call for “effective and fair climate regulation both in the EU and internationally,” laudable goals with which we concur.
But their next assertion is that the ETS is preventing it from happening, including by keeping EU policy on energy efficiency and renewables from becoming stronger. On the contrary, a strong ETS, with a robust carbon price, would reward investments in renewable and efficient energy systems, making climate targets easier to reach. In fact, alongside the ETS, many other emissions-reduction policies have been developed in recent years, such as controls on car pollution, building performance legislation and the Energy Efficiency Directive. In the other response to our opinion piece, Eurofer's Gordon Moffatt raises one of the most commonly repeated – and greatly exaggerated - arguments against backloading: an increased carbon price signal will hurt industry's competitiveness, causing industry and jobs to leave Europe and increasing pollution outside the EU.
In actuality, for manufacturing sectors, climate policy is far less relevant in investment decisions than other factors, such as differences in tax structure, labour costs or local market conditions. To give an example of a thriving manufacturing company, last year in Poland, Press-Glas, a leading European company in the building-glass processing sector with an annual turnover of €130 million, opened its fifth factory, which is also the largest glass processing plant in Europe. In addition, a recent Health and Environment Alliance report, "The Unpaid Health Bill - How coal power plants make us sick”, points out the massive health costs associated with coal pollution in Europe.
Continuing our addiction to dirty coal is far more costly to our society and the economy than any perceived “carbon leakage” effects.
For a problem as wide-ranging as climate change, one needs a variety of weapons in the arsenal, including regulatory methods, standards and a market-driven trading scheme. But a carbon market, in conjunction with ambitious policies, only makes sense if it puts the right price on pollution.
At the moment, Europe's carbon market does not reflect the right price, but MEPs look poised to help the faltering scheme by voting to support the backloading proposal. The vote can be seen as a test if MEPs are really serious about facing the climate challenge. We hope they will bid for the climate rather than cheap pollution.
Director, Climate Action Network Europe