EU Divisions Hobble Bid to Lead Climate Deal

  • Date: 20/06/17
  • Emre Peker, The Wall Street Journal

BRUSSELS—European Union governments clashed Monday over joint efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, highlighting the challenges facing the bloc as it vies to lead the global fight against climate change.

Environment ministers from the EU’s 28 members struggled to bridge divides on legislation to cut emissions. Some pushed for carbon subsidies to help plug national shortcomings, while others warned such measures would undermine the bloc’s Paris Agreement commitments.

The EU’s internal squabbles come less than three weeks after President Donald Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the global accord to halt climate change, providing an opening for Brussels to become the Paris deal’s cheerleader.

Yet so far EU leaders have failed to match words with actions. Delays to two bills that will codify EU efforts to cut emissions threaten the bloc’s ability to finalize its position before November, when the international community aims to clinch guidelines to implement the Paris deal.

“President Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement put us all face to face with our responsibilities,” Miguel Arias Cañete, European commissioner for climate action and energy, told the bloc’s environment ministers Monday. “More than ever, there is a need for a strong signal from the European Union that we are ready to lead the way.”

The EU over recent months aligned itself with China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses and the U.S.’s top partner in securing the global agreement, as it became evident Mr. Trump would nix the 2015 accord.

Beijing and Brussels agreed to deepen cooperation on implementing the Paris deal during a summit that coincided with Mr. Trump announcing the U.S. exit. But because of longstanding disagreements over trade, EU and Chinese leaders killed a joint declaration on countering climate change, not presenting a strongly united front against Mr. Trump’s stance.

Now, EU governments and the European Parliament are debating bills that lay out how the bloc will cut emissions from buildings, agriculture, waste management, transport and the use of soil. They are also deliberating how to account for forests, and timber use for fuel. Brussels’ goal is to reduce releases across all those areas by 30% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.

“We have to be able to show that we can rise to the challenge,” Luxembourg Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg said, calling the lack of consensus “regrettable.”

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