Mr. Liese Receives Accolades in The Brief

The European Parliament has adopted the largest and most ambitious climate policy ever: the reform of the EU’s carbon market. And this was mostly thanks to a centre-right lawmaker who did what was necessary.

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With an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament adopted the reform of the “Emissions Trading System”, the EU’s most important climate instrument. This may sound like a press release by the European People’s Party (EPP), but it’s the truth.

It means that – gradually, over the next few years – emitters of CO2 for industrial production, flights, marine transport or electricity generation will have to pay a price for their pollution.

Crucially, the overall amount of emissions is capped, boosting the credibility of the bloc’s ambitious climate targets adopted in 2021.

A key part of the reform is a second carbon market, one that covers heating and the fuel used for driving. This affects consumers more directly and is therefore more tricky.

The introduction of this new system, planned for 2027, is a risk. Essentially, no one exactly knows how high the price surcharge at the petrol station and on heating bills will be.

Most EU lawmakers wanted to shy away from this risk.

In February 2022, five of seven political groups in the European Parliament proposed scrapping this second emissions trading system (Socialists, Greens, Left, nationalist conservative ECR, and far-right ID). Taken together, those groups have a majority in the EU assembly.

Still, the reform carried the day today.

This is thanks mostly to the negotiating skills of one man who fought tooth and nail for its survival: Peter Liese, a German lawmaker with the centre-right EPP group and chief negotiator for the carbon market reform.

The introduction of the second carbon market is a risk, true — but risk-taking is exactly what climate policy needs to have a chance of success.

So far, debates on most climate policy measures have been an uphill battle.

While the left and green side of the political spectrum has called for more state intervention to stop climate-damaging technology or behaviour, the right-wing camp has tried to stop them, fighting to leave people the freedom of choice.

And as we all know, politicians tend to think about their voter base first. Millions of Europeans are sceptical of too much state intervention. Some of them because they had very bad experiences with that in not-so-distant history.

But for too long, many conservatives have seen climate change mitigation simply as something “the Greens want” or “NGOs want”.

But the truth is, their voters also feel the impact of climate change. In Liese’s home region, Westphalia, for instance, forests have been severely damaged due to droughts, also giving rise to bark beetle infestations. In other parts of Europe, forests are burning at unprecedented rates.

Thus, the political right was in need of an alternative to outright bans and other state interventions, but one that also stops climate change. And that’s emissions trading.

The Emissions Trading System is market-based. It mobilises private investments. It spurs innovation. It’s what everyone on the right side of the political spectrum should fight for, if they are serious about fighting climate change.

Adopting the new carbon market for heating and transport fuels remains a risk. EU countries need to make sure that prices don’t go through the roof, and do not overburden those already struggling to make ends meet.

The best way to do so is by keeping demand for emission allowances low – by reducing carbon emissions of buildings and road transport, starting today.

National governments need to take the same responsibility the European Parliament did today. And that is especially true of Germany. Highly ambitious but without a plan for how to reduce emissions in road transport, it needs to get its act together.

Enabling as many citizens as possible to switch from cars to public transport, to electric vehicles, to heat pumps are just a few of the things EU countries can do.

The carbon market alone will not solve the huge societal task that is the climate transition but without it, the effort is almost doomed.

The challenge remains gigantic. But with the adoption of the EU’s carbon market reform, limiting global warming to below 2 degrees has become more likely than ever before.

Many will be tempted to dismiss this as ‘too little, too late’ or point to the looming social risks. But one thing still deserves to be said today:

Thank you, Mr Liese! Future generations owe you.

Today’s edition is powered by Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies


[email protected], the biggest gathering of centre-right political foundations, is back!


Organised in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Hanns Seidel Stiftung, and the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party, the Martens Centre annual forum will be held on April 25th in Brussels.

The Roundup 

Environmental groups took the European Commission to court on Tuesday (18 April) after the EU executive rejected their request to withdraw fossil gas from the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy.

While Germany achieved its 2022 climate target, the persistent emission overshoot in the transport and building sector threatens the country’s ability to meet its 2030 objective, a national panel of scientists has warned.

The leading legal affairs committee of the European Parliament is set to vote on its position on the proposed corporate accountability rules next week, following an agreement reached by negotiators on Tuesday (18 April).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met his commanders in two regions of Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed, while Russian forces stepped up heavy artillery bombardments and air strikes on the devastated eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

The Swedish presidency of the EU Council has circulated a third compromise text on the Product Liability Directive, clarifying the circumstances under which software providers would be held liable.

As Germany transitions away from fossil fuels to achieve climate neutrality by 2035, Berlin-based think-tank Agora Energiewende estimates that between 71 to 94% of the existing gas grid may become redundant.

The UK’s data reform bill, set to revamp the country’s post-Brexit data protection regime, was debated in Parliament on Monday (17 April) after being shelved for several months.

Regional cost differences and uneven enforcement of EU animal transport rules by member states incentivise live animal transport, leading to loopholes and risks to adequate animal welfare standards, according to a new review by the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen urged the bloc’s leaders to show unity in the face of China on Tuesday (18 April), one week after French President Emmanuel Macron stirred a fierce debate over ties with Beijing.

The Swedish presidency of the EU Council circulated a compromise text on the EU platform workers’ directive with only minor changes, signalling that after months of stalled negotiations in the EU Council of Ministers, a political deal could be within reach.

Don’t forget to check out this week’s Transport Brief: EU lawmakers gamble on the recital clause – again.

Look out for…

  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers keynote speech at the conference “Agreement 25”, organised by Queen’s University Belfast 25 years after the signing of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement.
  • Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides participates in European Parliament Plenary Debate on the EU Global Health Strategy.
  • Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski receives Ambassador of Türkiye to the EU, Faruk Kaymakcı
  • Informal meeting of environment ministers continues on Wednesday.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Nathalie Weatherald]

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