As the European Commission has released their proposal for a European Climate Law, in the view to “write into law the goal set out in the European Green Deal, we interviewed MEP Pierre Larrouturou, rapporteur for the post-2020 budget and the “InvestEU” programme. He shared his hopes and concerns with us.
Alix Bolle, Energy Cities: What is your opinion of the European Commission’s Green Deal and proposed Climate Law?
Pierre Larrouturrou: The fact that the new Commission has made the fight against climate change its “man on the moon moment” is certainly something to celebrate!
Given the stark situation we are in, with the previous COP a blind alley, projects like the Green Deal at least have the virtue of existing. I regret, however, that its financing is so fuzzy, with so-called leverage effects that are just preposterous and for which we have no guarantee. This is why I intend to bring my weight to bear in the upcoming negotiations as a rapporteur for the post-2020 budget and the “InvestEU” programme.
To ensure the Green Deal is not just green washing, together with a number of NGOs, we advocate an interim 2030 target of 65%, and not just 50 or 55 % as proposed by the Commission, in line with the Paris agreement.
Why is the EU still signing gas projects in complete contradiction with its climate policy?
For me, enlarging the scope of the Green Deal, by aligning all European and international policies, is also vital. For instance, what about the involvement of the EU in international commercial treaties not subject to the Green Deal’s objectives? Why is the EU still signing gas projects in complete contradiction with its climate policy? And what can we really expect from the “Farm to Fork” strategy in the absence of a CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] overhaul?
A.B.: Besides large cross-border electricity market integration projects and the promise of technological advances, do you share the idea that the proposed Climate Law should give more importance to the notion of energy sufficiency?
P.L.: I believe that the solution lies in the simultaneous use of a series of complementary measures. Clearly, the integration of national electricity markets is a necessity but it won’t solve all the problems. Technological innovation should also be a priority, including massive investments in storage facilities, which are indispensable for scaling up renewable energy.
We also need to rebuild our industrial sectors, notably to make Europe less dependent on technological imports. But obviously, reorienting the economy towards carbon neutrality will also involve reinforcing local virtuous, innovative initiatives aimed at increasing energy efficiency and sufficiency. For example, there is a huge potential for improving building insulation. But what we need is an integrated approach that does not just focus on the financial aspects but tries to overcome all the psychological barriers. In this regard, local authorities have, once again, a crucial role to play. It would also make sense to adopt, as you recently proposed, a more neighbourhood-based approach as part of the European Commission’s “Renovation Wave”.
I also believe that a debate is needed at EU level about what tools are needed to mainstream these new trends. Financing via the ERDF could be an option, provided 50% (against 25% today) of its funds are climate-proofed.
A.B.: The proposed Climate Law pays lip service to the contribution of local authorities to delivering the EU 2050 carbon neutrality objective. In your opinion, what could be done to reinforce their participation?
P.L.: Indeed, the participation of local and regional authorities is indispensable and I think that the proposal to set up a Climate Pact – with the participation of all stakeholders – within the Green Deal is promising. But genuine opportunities for exchanging and participating in the various decision-making processes will have to be created for the Pact to be more than just a gimmick…
A.B.: In this respect, don’t you think that an institutional mechanism enabling local authorities to notify the EU executive of any obstacles (often posed by national regulations) they face in implementing their local climate strategies would make sense?
P.L.: There are quite a lot of dysfunctions between the various governance levels as it is plain to see here in Belgium. So, for me it is a good idea in theory, but in practice, I’m not sure whether the European level is the most appropriate one to deal with this kind of issue.
Climate proofing should be applied to all EU legislation proposals!
A.B.: According to Energy Cities, the EU economic governance of the EU should be fully aligned with the climate emergency status with climate proofing and mainstreaming applied to all EU funds and programmes as well as Members States’ fiscal and budgetary policies. What is your opinion?
P.L.: I fully share this point of view and would even go further: I believe that in the same way as each regulation has to be checked for financial soundness, climate proofing should be applied to all EU legislation proposals! Any directive proposal not compatible with the Paris agreement would then be blocked. I mentioned international treaties earlier and such a screening process could also be used to better assess the type of commitments the EU should or should not make in the future.
A.B.: Finally, in your opinion, what measures should be taken as a priority to begin the post-corona reconstruction?
P.L.: In conjunction with the proposals that we have already made within the Finance-Climate Plan, the top priority is to set up a truly green tax policy with a more efficient, more targeted taxation system, notably regarding financial transactions and the profits of large corporations, while continuing to keep a wary eye on the major business lobbies, which, under cover of the current crisis, are already trying to dodge their environmental and climate-related obligations and to postpone the Green Deal.
Member of the European Parliament