The Parliament Magazine published in the print as well as in the online issue a report about the seminar “The EU’s Fuel Quality Directive – What Effects on Trade and Geopolitics?” hosted by Silvana Koch-Mehrin and Jens Rohde:
By Kayleigh Lewis
The EU’s fuel quality directive must not be sacrificed in favour of ‘trade agreements’ with third countries, climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard has told an event held in the European parliament.
The directive represents a key part of the 202020 climate and energy package and requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuels used in vehicles
The event, hosted by parliament’s ALDE group, looked at the implications of the fuel quality directive on trade and geopolitics.
German MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin, who hosted the event, said that legislation that has implications for trade should take into consideration the impact on the EU’s imports and exports.
Hedegaard, however, stressed that modern trade agreements should not contradict environmental concerns, adding, ‘Trade must not be used as an excuse to prevent environmental progress.’ The Danish official said, ‘Modern trade agreements should be able to accommodate this and take care that we are not using trade agreements to lower standards.’ The commissioner said that the core purpose of the directive is to reduce carbon emissions from transport by six per cent, with intermediate indicative targets of two per cent by 2014 and four per cent by 2017. If the EU wants to meet its targets, she said, then there will have to be ‘major changes’ to all areas of the economy, including transport. In recognising that the directive and the grading of fuels could have consequences for certain industries, she said that there will be an impact assessment and a stakeholder conference to look at its impacts. Hedegaard said that although trade and politics had to be taken into account, it doesn’t mean that fuel can’t be assessed according to its ‘real impact’.
However, Jeffrey Sundquist, special envoy of Alberta to the UK and EU and a panellist at the event, had reservations about the commission’s impact assessment. He said, ‘It is not clear to us that the impact assessment is properly evaluating trade implications. Unnecessarily interrupting the efficient flow of the market will disadvantage existing suppliers, create fuel shuffling which could potentially drive higher global emissions.’ He also called for a policy that calls for more transparency from those who provide fuel to the EU and that the highest default values should be given to those suppliers who are not transparent on their greenhouse gas emissions.
Hedegaard responded to criticism about the commission’s impact assessment by calling for industry wait for its findings before jumping to conclusions. She added that the commission is not looking to ‘punish’ single products but assess instead assess the environmental impact of different fuels.
ALDE MEP Holger Krahmer, who attended the event, said that the question of fuels from ‘unconventional sources’ is of growing importance. He said, ‘If the Commission wants to build ‘green-fence lines’ around Europe, it should make a codecision proposal and not seek to use comitology to do this.’
While Koch-Mehrin suggested that, although she welcomed the impact assessment and stakeholder conference, she felt that possible legal consequences should be taken into account. The German MEP said that she, along with other MEPs, had called for a legal assessment on the trade aspects of the directive. Koch-Mehrin also drew attention to the level of corruption in energy producing countries, particularly those which the EU heavily relies on for energy imports.
EPP deputy Peter Štastný argued that reductions in CO2 output will create additional costs and could lead to the EU purchasing only from corrupt states.
However, Hedegaard said that the directive could contribute to sustainable growth and job creation while reducing the EU’s trade imbalance and reliance on energy imports from countries outside the bloc.