4th Dec 2022

MEPs vote down EU climate laws in dramatic upset

  • Socialists & Democrats MEPs discuss how to respond to extension of pollution permits for industry to 2034 (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

In a high-stakes political drama, MEPs on Wednesday (8 June) rejected three major pieces of climate legislation in a plenary vote in Strasbourg, delaying EU efforts to reduce carbon emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.

Political parties had already reached an agreement in the environmental committee (ENVI) in May which pushed for even faster emissions reduction in Europe than the EU Commission originally had proposed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Typically plenary votes largely follow these agreements.

But intense pressure from industry groups in the past days has derailed Wednesday's settlement in parliament.

"The lobbying is extreme," Mohammed Chahim, MEP for the Socialists & Democrats overseeing the proposed carbon tax, or Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), told EUobserver shortly before the vote.

"I have rarely seen so much pressure from lobbies to slow down Europe's [climate] action," MEP Pierre Larouturou also tweeted before the vote.

At first, MEPs seemed to follow the script set out by the ENVI committee and agreed to increase ambitions on most major pieces of legislation.

Lawmakers agreed to extend emissions trading — a tax on pollution that can be traded using credits — to aviation and shipping, plus a separate system for commercial housing, cars, and vans.

This would help to push down carbon pollution by 63 percent in total in the next eight years, slightly higher than the commission's targets.

A carbon levy on goods imported to the EU, a protectionist measure shielding EU industry from outside competition, and the social climate fund, designed to protect households against higher energy and fuel bills, had also been expected to be approved.

But an agreement collapsed when three parties on the right, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the rightwing European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR) and the hard-right Identity (ID) group, gained a majority for an amendment which would extend free pollution permits for industrial producers to 2034 instead of 2032.

"A clear sign that many MEPs put industry lobby interests above all else," Klaus Röhrig, energy expert at Brussels based NGO Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, called it.

Green parties and parties on the left refused to accept the 2034 date because this would likely push EU emissions above levels set out by the European Climate Law.

"Some want to have CBAM and keep free allowances. You cannot have your cake, eat it & have the cherry on top. It frustrates me that they pretend to fight for the climate goals," Chahim told lawmakers on Tuesday referring to industry and, potentially, some of his lobby-beholden colleagues.

When ECR and ID blocked an effort to compromise, a majority became impossible for the carbon border levy, the social climate fund and the emissions trading scheme for commercial buildings and vehicles, because the pollution phase-out scheme is integral to all three.

"This is an unexpected situation, but we will manage," liberal MEP Pascal Canfin, chair of the ENVI committee, said at a press conference following the vote.

Other commentators handled their disappointment with less equanimity.

"It's all very dramatic at the moment," an environmental campaigner present at the scene told EUobserver.

New negotiations are expected to start in July.

MEPs debate crucial 'Fit for 55' laws ahead of vote

EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans defended the EU's landmark emissions reduction strategy on Tuesday against a parliament that is poised to water down some crucial elements of the plan in a crucial Wednesday vote.

MEPs host aviation lobby dinner on eve of climate vote

German liberal MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen and Romanian centre-right MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu have organised a dinner in Strasbourg with Airlines for Europe (A4E). The dinner takes place on the eve of a crucial vote on climate change laws.


Why 'Fit for 55' isn't fit for purpose

In a worst-case scenario, the EU's climate policies would exclude developing nations from international trade, forcing them to trade with each other, forming economic and environmental 'ghettos' while the wealthy West enjoys the benefits of free trade and clean energy.


Taxonomy and Ukraine on top This WEEK

MEPs will vote on an objection to the EU Commission's proposal to classify, temporarily, gas and nuclear energy investment as 'green', under the so-called taxonomy. Meanwhile, EU finance ministers are expected to approve Poland's recovery plan.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us