European Parliament

Following the extremely successful launch of Sandbag’s Buckle Up! report in the House of Lords, Sandbag this week launched the report in the European Parliament. Baroness Worthington was joined on the panel by Commissioner HedegaardBas Eickhout MEP and Director of Industrial Affairs at Business Europe, Folker Franz.

Chaired by Pete Harrison, Reuters EU Energy and Environment Correspondent, the event got underway with Baroness Worthington summarising the findings of the report ‘Buckle Up!’: with such clear evidence that the ETS cap needed tightening, she challenged heavy industry to stop blocking reform that was in the best interest of the EU economy as whole.

Commissioner Hedegaard started her address by thanking Sandbag for a report that “strikes a balance between underlining the merits of the EU ETS and criticising the weaknesses”. Commissioner Hedegaard went on to reiterate that the EU ETS was Europe’s flagship policy to tackle climate policy and was here to stay. Balance, she explained was key: “In developing the EU ETS must strike a careful balance between on the one hand giving the power, heavy industry and aviation sectors the predictability needed for long-term investments; and on the other hand setting the targets and other framework conditions so as to achieve continuous emission reductions in the most cost-efficient way. To work well, the market framework should not be changed often. But likewise, the system is not there for its own sake, and changes in the legal framework now and then may be necessary to ensure it actually delivers emission cuts. So balance is the key word: a balance between predictability and the need for adjustments.”

Folker Franz followed by highlighting Business Europe’s support for the EU ETS and also pleaded that it should not be “bad mouthed”. Touching on the ideological debate that often engulfs the EU ETS, Folker reminded the audience that the EU ETS can be viewed through vastly different lenses. There are those who see the ETS as a policy which solely addresses the reduction of carbon emissions and those who see it as a policy to encourage emission reductions and act as driver to spur low carbon investment in Europe. At the heart of Business Europe’s concerns is the desire to have predictable and stable ETS. The EU ETS should not, as Folker put it, be tinkered with.

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Finally, Bas Eickhout MEP, was the last of the panellist to address the audience. Amongst his concerns was the growing complexity of the mechanism, leaving the conversation on its future improvement to a limited number of people who are able to keep up with the debate: "only 10-15 MEPs actually understand the system". Another pressing concern was about the discussion that was taking place, with so much noise coming from all sides there needs to be an open and factual discussion based on the truth to establish where all sides agree.

With the audience being comprised of mostly industry representatives the question and answer session that followed was lively and covered a range of themes. From Sandbag’s perspective this event highlighted the common ground that’s shared between the range of actors involved with the EU ETS.

Progressive businesses have always favoured more ambitious policies to keep Europe ahead of the game in terms of developing next generation of low carbon technologies. While ambition has to date been watered down by a few industrial sectors there seems to be a growing consensus that Europe needs to be at the forefront of the 'clean industrial revolution'. Sandbag strongly believes that a well functioning ETS could be instrumental in achieving this.

You can read press clippings from the report launch here