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Environment ministers meet to discuss climate targets

22 Apr 2013 20:19:59 | edcm

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European environment ministers are expected to discuss the European Commission's carbon emissions allowance back-loading proposal and the bloc's long-term climate targets during informal talks held in Dublin on Monday and Tuesday.

The meeting takes place less than a week after the European parliament rejected the commission's proposal.

At the time, the rotating Irish EU presidency said that the European Council will continue to work towards agreement on measures to curb the oversupply in the carbon market (see EDCM 16 April 2013).

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard has since said any progress made by the council will be key to rescuing the proposal.

Back-loading, however, is not due to be formally discussed in Dublin.

All eyes on Germany

But, despite confident talk by the presidency and the commission, market expectations for advancing the proposal in Dublin were low.

"We are not expecting much to emerge from these talks," Jefferies Bache carbon analyst Matthew Gray said in a market note.

He cited the fact that the German stance on the controversial question is still expected to be some time off.

Germany is widely regarded as the most influential member state on the matter, but its environment and economy ministries have failed to reach agreement on it.

Europe's sovereign debt crisis had changed its political environment, which had implications for the proposal, Gray said.

"We are still confident that Germany will vote in favour of ETS reform," he said. "But, due to their hegemonic status in Europe and federal elections later this year, an official German position may not occur until late Q3."

The Irish presidency said that a process of reflection is going on both within the parliament and the council. A spokesman said by e-mail that the environment, public health and food safety committee has two months to consider the matter so its deliberations are likely to "be important on whether Germany will have a basis for reconsidering its position then (in June) or whether it will be something that may stretch to the other side of the German [federal] election".

The election, scheduled for 22 September, could reorganise Germany's political landscape in favour of passing the back-loading proposal. At the moment, chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat Party (CDU) is expected to be re-elected but its coalition partner, the Liberal Party (FDP), is performing poorly in polls.

According to researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the most likely election outcome is therefore the replacement of the FDP as coalition partner by either the Social Democrats (SPD) or the Green Party.

As a result, minister of economics and technology and outspoken opponent of the back-loading proposal Philipp Rösler could be replaced before the end of the year, which could break the deadlock within the German government on the back-loading issue.

CEE countries on 2030 targets

Ministers will also discuss a 2030 framework for Europe's climate and energy policies during their Dublin meeting.

The EU recently launched a consultation on numerous issues surrounding the setting of 2030 CO2 reduction and energy targets (see EDCM 27 March 2013). Hedegaard has said the EU should set those targets in the next two-and-a-half years.

Environmental ministers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary - the so-called Visegrad group of countries - plus their Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts met last week in Poland to agree a common position on 2030 goals.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the six countries stressed the need to combine discussions on EU climate and energy policy framework with global negotiations, which are conducted through the UN.

"These two dimensions should go hand in hand," they said.

The 27-member EU is already consulting stakeholders in a bid to shape its position on a potential global climate deal by 2015 that is to be implemented between 2020-2030 (see EDCM 26 March 2013). The Visegrad group labelled such an agreement, which is also due to be discussed in Dublin on Tuesday, both plausible and important.

Objectives balance

The six countries also called for setting country-specific targets that account for national and sectoral circumstances, and for assessing the impact that targets have made on member states to date.

"The balance between policy objectives should be the guiding principle of the new framework, with a special focus on competitive and sustainable growth and job creation," they said.

Poland will host the next Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Warsaw at the end of this year. Silvia Molteni

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