Climatico’s entire European Union team (me) has been away on holiday recently, and on my return I find that I’ve missed an eventful couple of weeks. The credibility of both the EU’s domestic climate policy and its international commitments has been dealt a couple of blows, one by a Commission publication on climate financing for developing countries and another by a European court ruling.
Developing country financing first. As Ian Ross wrote in a – dare I say it – grumpy post in March 2009 there are longstanding disagreements within the EU over how much money it should give developing countries to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change. Back then, the EU’s environment ministers were beginning the process of trying to reach agreement over the funding they would commit to adaptation.
Now the Commission has set out its view of how developing country financing could work under an international agreement, and provided an indication of what it sees as an appropriate scale for the EU’s contribution. In its communication, the Commission adhered to its long-standing view of the amount of money that needs to be spent in developing countries by 2020 – €100bn every year. But its proposal for how much of this should come from EU funds disappointed NGOs including Oxfam, WWF, and Greenpeace. The amounts it proposed fall short of their expectations and – more revealingly – are short of the figures seen in a draft of the same document leaked the previous week.
Financing for developing countries is one of the four key areas identified by Yvo de Boer recently as crucial to a successful climate agreement. The Commission’s publication may help to provide a framework for negotiations over this topic. But its lack of ambition underlines the difficulty of resourcing climate mitigation and adaptation abroad at a time of severe public finance constraints – even for countries that are willing to commit substantial resources to reducing emissions at home.
Meanwhile, the EU’s flagship policy for reducing European GHG emissions found itself at the wrong end of a critical judgment from the European Court of First Instance last week. The court sided with Poland and Estonia in a dispute over the Commission’s role in evaluating their National Allocation Plans (NAPs) for carbon emissions for the period 2008-2012.
The background to the case is that the Commission rejected the NAPs originally proposed by these two countries for this period, and revised them downwards. The Commission’s power to review NAPs exists so that countries aren’t too generous in their allocations – this should avoid a price crash of the sort seen during the experimental first phase of the EU ETS. The Court’s judgment found that the Commission’s grounds for rejecting the NAPs weren’t legally valid and has annulled the Commission’s decision.
Although the prospect of a possible loosening of the cap sounds alarming, there are a few reasons to think that this won’t crash the carbon price. One is that the Commission will appeal the decision, dragging out the legal process and delaying any reversal until 2010 or even beyond. Even if the appeal is unsuccessful, Member States won’t have free rein to determine their own NAPs – they will still be subject to the Commission’s scrutiny. And the fact that certificates can be banked and used in the third Phase of the EU ETS, which runs from 2012 to 2020, should allow some of the excess certificates (if there are any) to be absorbed in those later years. But this is an unwelcome distraction all the same, especially at a time when weak demand for energy has already depressed the value of carbon allowances.