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The French are renowned for their diplomatic skills on the world stage – frenchafter all, was the language of diplomacy before English encroached (as any Frenchman will remind you).
What other nation could have guided the Paris Agreement, an international agreement that seemed impossible? And what other nation would have named it after its capital to remind you of their achievement in perpetuity?
And so, in the final days of their presidency of the Council of the EU, the French are once again attempting an impressive diplomatic feat: getting EU member states to agree on a position on the Fit for 55 climate law package.
Discussions between environment ministers took place today (28 June) in Luxembourg, but rather than discussing each piece of legislation individually, the French presidency has chosen to bundle several dossiers together. This would mean most of the Fit for 55 package is discussed and voted on as one.
Whether this was a stroke of diplomatic genius to push through difficult issues by bundling them together or a fatal misstep is unclear at the time of writing.
The transport files included the revision of the emissions trading system, as well as the creation of ETS 2 for buildings and road transport. But arguably the star of the show was the proposed CO2 standards for cars and vans – the controversial dossier which would see a complete ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035.
Before the vote, the position of many Member States was clear – Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia had circulated a document supporting a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions from cars by 2035, pushing back the 100% reduction to 2040.
They argued that this would give countries more time to install the necessary charging infrastructure and, given the added expense of an electric vehicle, help address the cost of living crisis.
Poland and Hungary were also hostile to the 2035 ban, with Poland saying neither the market nor consumers were ready for the switch to electric vehicles.
But in other parts of Europe, the proposal to switch to clean vehicles was strongly backed, with the only criticism that the phase-out date was not earlier.
The Netherlands, for its part, has not had the patience to talk about reduced targets or to use e-fuels as a solution: “We cannot accept any dilution… What is on the table is the bare minimum, and I really have to insist here.”
The biggest question mark hung over Germany, whose position had turned out to be shifting as the Council meeting approached. What would they decide if needed?
Unfortunately, Germany’s position came with a fair amount of confusion.
In a bizarre series of events, the German environment minister’s speech was criticized by fellow cabinet member Christian Lindner on Twitter, which accused Minister Steffi Lemke of going against the coalition agreement.
Twitter sleuths suggested that Lindner had simply misunderstood the comments and that Lemke had, in fact, advanced the agreed position – that Germany would ask Brussels for an addition to the law to allow vehicles running on neutral fuels in CO2 (such as e-fuels) for sale after 2035.
Confusion and infighting in public does not bode well for a government that has already been heavily criticized for its (lack of) communication skills.
Rather than proceed to a vote, the French presidency called for work to be halted so member states could iron out compromises.
Given the controversial nature of the package and the distance between the countries, it will take all of France’s diplomatic skills to negotiate a common position before handing over the reins to the Czech Republic in July.
Today’s edition is powered by NESTE.
Waste can help fuel sustainable mobility
We need to reduce transport emissions and we need to reduce the amount of waste that cannot be recycled. What if each of these problems was in fact the solution to the other? We call it Waste-to-Wheels.
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Sustainable jet fuel amendments passed by MEPs, despite Green concerns
Environment ministers aren’t the only politicians working on the Fit for 55 package this week.
MEPs in the European Parliament’s Transport Committee voted yesterday (27 June) on ReFuelEU Aviation, the Commission’s proposal for a law on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
The amended text was adopted by 25 votes to six with three abstentions following an agreement by MPs from three of Parliament’s biggest voting blocs – the centre-right EPP, the centrist Renew and the centre-left S&D.
The Greens, however, voted against the text, arguing that it is not in line with EU climate objectives.
What has hurt green MEPs the most (apart from the SAF exemption for private jets) has been the expansion of the list of eligible raw materials from which green jet fuels can be made.
To help fuel producers meet the increased SAF targets proposed by the committee, MEPs sought to expand the restricted list of EU-approved feedstocks included in the Renewable Energy Directive.
MEPs propose that biofuels produced from animal fats or distillates be eligible for SAF until 2034, a measure intended to fill the gap in electrofuels, which are almost non-existent today.
“Today’s proposed text would see all sorts of unsustainable raw materials burned in aircraft engines, including palm oil derivatives, at a time of heightened food insecurity. It will also stifle innovation in the development of sustainable e-fuels and more sustainable advanced biofuels,” Irish MEP Ciarán Cuffe told EURACTIV.
It may surprise some readers that the A4E, a trade association representing airlines, has also sided with the Greens, fearing that expanding the commodity list could damage reputation, particularly if it is turns out that some of the new raw materials are not as green as we think.
The amended text will be voted on in plenary in July.
Lufthansa CEO advises passengers to prepare for summer travel disruptions
Almost every passenger who has set foot in an airport in the last couple of months has probably encountered problems – long delays, winding queues, canceled flights… The experience of air travel has become an infuriating glove.
Just last week, the author of this Brief, who was due to attend a wedding in Romania, received a text at 5 a.m. explaining that his 9 a.m. flight had been cancelled, while a Another passenger known to the author is currently stranded in Warsaw, having missed a connecting flight.
Such stories are common and while there are surely bigger issues one could face, travel issues are a source of great frustration (especially if the accommodation booked was non-refundable…)
The reasons behind this are well known at this point: airlines and airports have laid off dozens of staff during the COVID-19 pandemic; now that the number of passengers is increasing, there are no longer enough staff to meet the demand.
One would expect the situation to be rectified soon, be it a temporary interruption in European connectivity. However, a recent email from Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr suggests the problems may well continue through the summer.
“We want to be completely honest: in the coming weeks, as the number of passengers continues to increase, whether for leisure or business travel, the situation is not expected to improve in the short term” , wrote Spohr.
“Too many people and resources are still unavailable, not only at our infrastructure partners, but also in some of our own areas.”
Unfortunately, there is no solution for future jet-setters.
But given the chaos of travel, if you’re booking a hotel, be sure to check the cancellation policy beforehand (trust me).
MEPs vote to broaden definition of ‘sustainable aviation fuels’
Lawmakers on the European Parliament’s Transport Committee voted to broaden the definition of green jet fuel yesterday (June 27), a move that could see controversial biofuel feedstocks used to reduce aviation emissions.
Revealed: How Italy tried to water down EU car emission rules
Italy’s EU representation in Brussels took the unusual step of sending detailed voting recommendations to Italian members of the European Parliament earlier this month, asking them to reject a proposed EU ban on passenger cars. petrol and diesel, according to emails obtained by EURACTIV.
Strikes sweep across Europe with latest victims of Ryanair flights
Ryanair cabin crew went on strike in Belgium, Spain and Portugal on Friday June 24 over a dispute over pay and working conditions, the latest in a wave of walkouts by workers from different sectors in Europe.
European ethanol companies produced more animal feed than fuel last year
Bioethanol production in Europe led to higher yields of fodder than fuel in 2021, according to new figures – further proof that biofuels can also contribute to food stability, according to the industry.
EU ban on new internal combustion cars in 2035 won’t mean end of biofuels, industry says
Critics say the position adopted by the European Parliament for zero tailpipe emissions by 2035 is effectively a mandate for electric vehicles, excluding biofuels.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]