19th of November, 2009
Dear President Barroso,
Dear Secretary General,
A group of MEPs wrote to you a few months ago, as Coordinators and Rapporteurs or Shadows for their respective Groups on the successful Climate Package legislation, voicing their alarm about the first rumours that a new Commission Directorate General for Energy and Climate Change might be established.
Rumour had that in the future DG Energy would take over from DG Environment the responsibility for the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) and for the international climate strategy. We were concerned that a DG responsible for both energy and climate would not be best placed to deliver the long term approach that sustainable climate policy demands. The reason for this is that the climate protection mandate would be in permanent interference and conflict with the short term economic interests of the energy sector within the proposed DG itself.
The second reason we opposed this plan was that climate policies require a transversal and sustainable approach, looking at industrial emissions, transport, energy, buildings, agriculture, development and foreign policy. Addressing the global climate crisis poses severe challenges to our energy policies. Still, the climate crisis is, first and foremost, a global environmental crisis and if originally it was triggered by our energy choices, it is certainly compounded by our poor management of natural resources and biodiversity, strained by our imbalanced production and consumption patterns. After all, a large share of global CO2 emissions is currently caused by deforestation and forest degradation.
The third reason for our alarm was the need for institutional continuity in the run-up to the COP15 in Copenhagen. It is of the highest importance that the Commission units that deal with implementing EU climate policies, with designing new instruments and with providing the background and expertise for the negotiations, are adequately staffed and can concentrate on their tasks. Since it seems inevitable that the negotiations on substantial parts of a global post-Kyoto climate deal will need to be completed at a later date, we feel that this argument is still relevant.
The revealing of the proposed line-up for the new European Commission is quickly approaching, and the rumours bring a new cause for concern: there may be the prospect for a separate Climate DG. We want to express our opposition to this second alternative for the same reasons cited in May, and also because we still find no reason for reducing the portfolio of competences of your Directorate General for Environment regarding climate policies. If there is one area where the EU has gained international and, most importantly, domestic respect and recognition over the last ten years, it has been in environmental and climate policy. The ambition and determination or former environment Commissioner Margot Wallström and of the current Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, backed up by a highly competent directorate-general of civil servants and by the European Parliament’s Environment committee have been instrumental in this success story. We are convinced that reforming such a successful set-up will bring more risks than opportunities in a moment when it is absolutely necessary that the EU upholds its role of global climate and environmental leader.
In the same way that climate responsibilities have greatly empowered the environment Commissioners, and, in turn, the environment ministers of the EU Member States and their Council meetings, losing them will likely send them back to the junior ranks in office. This will be very bad news for the citizens of the EU, for the international community which is still struggling to agree on a post-Kyoto climate deal, and for our planet.
The EU’s climate policy cannot be limited to fighting for a global cap-and-trade regime, and the best proof of this is the failure of the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) to create the incentives to encourage investment and lower emissions in a scale on a pair with what is needed.
We take note of your determination to create a portfolio for a Climate Action Commissioner in the next Commission, which will send a strong message about the high importance of climate policy in the EU. However, we still believe that sustainable climate policy will be best advanced by a fully empowered DG Environment ready to cooperate with all other DGs to push for effective climate policies, and for this reason we believe that the next European Commission’s environment department could have two heads, one responsible for environment and one for climate action. The necessary coordination between these two Commissioners would be the best institutional guarantee for a climate policy able to drive the decarbonisation of our energy sector, create green jobs and provide the impetus for shifting towards a more enlightened system of production and consumption able to address the biodiversity-related drivers of climate change.
At your confirmation hearings as President of the Commission for the next five years, you reassured us that we can count on your personal continued commitment to provide for leadership in Europe and outside on climate policy and to address the climate challenge in the systemic way that is required. This is why we urge you again to prevent any risk that institutional politics or pressures from a sector of the industry whose interests are in tension with those of the citizens that want to see the EU lead the battle to protect our global climate, may prevent us collectively from achieving this.
With our kindest regards,
Jo Leinen MEP, Chairman for the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Lena Ek MEP, member of the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy
Satu Hassi MEP, member of the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, member of the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Vittorio Prodi MEP, member of the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety