EU ETS “reform” out of sync with Paris climate deal 


Environmentalists and politicians have warned that changes agreed today by the European Parliament to supposedly reform the European Union’s flagship Emissions Trading System will not turn the ETS into a real climate protection instrument that helps the EU reduce carbon pollution in line with the Paris Agreement. Climate experts accused the Parliament of “betraying the spirit of Paris” and choosing to “bow to the interests of polluting industries instead of protecting citizens from a catastrophic climate breakdown”. They called on EU governments to take up the challenge of real reform when they meet later this month. Slashing emissions in Europe, and elsewhere, is paramount to tackle climate change, ensure that countries meet their Paris climate commitments and to reduce the toxic air pollution that is blighting cities around the world. Indeed, the European Commission today opened infringement proceedings against France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK for having failed to protect their citizens’ health against dangerous levels of air pollution. Groups in the UK are attempting to push the government to take this issue seriously by launching a coalition calling for a new Clean Air Act to help deal with the country’s toxic and illegal levels of air pollution.


Key Points

  • Members of the European Parliament voted in Strasbourg today to give a new lease of life to the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which puts a price on global warming emissions. MEPs largely supported an earlier report from the Parliament’s Environment Committee to take initial steps to tackle the vast surplus of emission allowances by cancelling 800 million emission allowances from the ETS Market Stability Reserve.  This can be seen as a positive steps to strengthen the carbon price signal.


  • However MEPs downgraded ambition in other areas, thereby failing to turn the EU ETS into a real climate protection instrument that would help the EU reduce carbon pollution in line with the Paris Agreement. Clean energy experts pointed out that giving into fossil fuel industry lobbyists and creating an ETS that fails to serve its primary purpose and protects the interests of CO2 emitters instead of promoting clean business models is absurd when clean renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil energy and the European Union has ratified the Paris Agreement. In this new situation, a light-touch approach towards CO2 emitters in the ETS is neither necessary nor justifiable.


  • The need to slash emissions for the climate and also to protect the health of citizens worldwide is being increasingly recognised. Air pollution is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world, killing nearly 7 million people a year. Europe is far from exempt from this curse with people in many of its cities experiencing dangerous levels of air pollution known to cause bronchitis, asthma and other conditions.