EU’s Groote to Seek Parliament’s Carbon-Fix Approval Next Month

Jan 24, 2014 5:28 am ET

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Matthias Groote, head of the European Parliament’s environment committee, will seek a faster approval of the European Union carbon-market fix in a plenary decision that may be taken in the second half of next month.

The EU emergency plan to prop up carbon prices, which would temporarily curb supply of allowances at auctions, needs to get final clearance from the Parliament and national governments to be implemented. The European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, asked policy-makers earlier this month to accelerate the scrutiny, which would normally take until April, to enable the start of the plan in the first quarter.

“I will recommend shortening the scrutiny period if there are no objections or if the objections are rejected in the environment committee,” Groote said in an interview in Brussels today. “It will most likely be for a decision by the second plenary in February.”

The rescue plan for the carbon market, known as backloading, would help prices rebound from levels that the commission says are too low to encourage utilities to shift from coal to less-polluting natural gas and to spur investment in renewable energy. The cost of emitting one metric ton of carbon- dioxide fell to an all-time low of 2.46 euros in April amid a record glut of permits.

The deadline for raising objections against the measure is 12 p.m. today and a vote on draft resolutions that may be tabled against backloading is scheduled for Jan. 30. The Parliament’s industry committee, which has an advisory role on the carbon fix, recommended yesterday that the environment panel oppose the plan to intervene in the market.

Carbon Permits

Eija-Riitta Korhola, a Finnish member of the European People’s Party in the environment committee, said yesterday that she will raise an objection to backloading, admitting her proposal is unlikely to be approved. Claude Turmes, a Luxemburgish member of the industry panel, said yesterday that the environment committee has majority to overturn objections to the measure to postpone sales of 900 million carbon permits.

Should backloading begin in March, the EU would delay the sales of 400 million carbon permits this year, according to the draft regulation. If the evaluation is not accelerated and backloading begins in the second quarter, 300 million allowances would be delayed at auctions.

The commission needs about three weeks after the Parliament and governments end their scrutiny to formally adopt the backloading regulation and notify participants in the emissions market of a new auction calendar.

Fast-Track Evaluation

Groote’s request for a fast-track evaluation needs to be approved by the heads of the Parliament’s committees before it’s put on the agenda of the plenary. The EPP and the Conservatives in the industry panel will insist its head opposes the planned recommendation to shorten the scrutiny period, Polish member of the committee Kondrad Szymanski said in an interview yesterday.

A decision by a committee chair to object to a faster evaluation would need support from political parties’ coordinators in the panel, according to the Parliament’s rules. The Socialists & Democrats as well as Liberals and Greens are in favor of backloading, the panel’s deputy head, Patrizia Toia, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Once announced in plenary, a recommendation to shorten the scrutiny period is deemed to have been approved if there’s no opposition within 24 hours, according to the assembly’s rules. Objections can be raised by a political group or at least 40 members of the Parliament. That would require putting the recommendation to a vote in which a simple majority in favor is sufficient for approval.

The deadline for objections to backloading from EU member states, which conduct their scrutiny in parallel, expires today. If there is a qualified majority supporting the market fix, ambassadors will be able to approve it during one of their regular meetings in the coming weeks, according to EU rules.

--Editors: Jones Hayden, Andrew Clapham