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The EU parliament’s environment committee has let elements of EU industry off the hook for five years with the drafting of proposals that won’t see them begin paying for their carbon emissions until 2013.
The string of environment committee votes, labelled "Super Tuesday," was a review of three major laws that make up the EU's overall climate package targeting global warming.
The committee did, however, vote to have carbon emissions cut by 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020, with possibly deeper cuts -- up to 30 percent -- should an international global warming agreement be reached which involves developing countries.
"Keeping the 30 percent target alive sends an encouraging signal to our international partners in the run-up to Poznan and Copenhagen," said Tomas Wyns, Climate Action Network Europe's emissions trading senior policy officer, as quoted on CAN Europe's Web site.
"All eyes now are on Europe's environment ministers. The ball is now in their court. Will they show the climate commitment needed by developed countries to make an international deal possible by 2009?"
The votes will likely set the parliament's agenda in energy and climate negotiations with EU leaders ahead of a final agreement later this year.
Respite for industry
Sigmar Gabriel, German environment minister, and other EU leaders will agree on the EU's climate position late this year
But in what green groups have labelled a reprieve for industry, EU sectors such as steel, aluminium and cement have slightly benefited from Tuesday's vote.
The environment committee said such industries that were vulnerable to a global economic slowdown should pay for only 15 percent of permits in 2013, rising to 100 percent by 2020.
Avril Doyle, the Irish Conservative member of the EU parliament who led the legislation through the committee, said the decision was taken with an eye on protecting vulnerable industries from competitors in rival countries with more lax emissions trading regulations.
"The crisis in liquidity is not a helpful backdrop, but it does not mean my colleagues or I should drop the ball," said Doyle.
The good news, however, was that EU power generators would be made to pay for all their carbon emissions from 2013 -- a "polluter pays" scheme that has pleased green groups.
"This was a slap in the face to all the forces that want to weaken EU climate and energy policy," said Sanjeev Kumar of environment group WWF.