The central element of the EU climate protection plan “Fit for 55” surprisingly failed in the vote in the European Parliament. MEPs failed to agree on a common position on reforming Europe’s pollution trading scheme. As a result, the vote on two other important climate protection projects was canceled.

Parliament’s environment committee must now find new majority positions for the proposed legislation. This applies to the tightening of emissions trading and the plans to make drivers, renters and property owners pay for the emission of gases that are harmful to the climate. The planned CO2 tax at the EU’s external borders, which is intended to protect European companies from overseas competition, which produces dirtier and therefore cheaper than EU companies, is also being renegotiated.

Also affected is a planned 72 billion euro climate social fund, which is intended to transfer money to member states so that they can support their citizens when energy prices rise due to climate protection measures. The votes on the carbon dioxide border adjustment and the social fund were canceled because the projects are related – among other things, money from the sale of pollution rights should flow into the social fund.

The procedure shows the risks of the EU Commission’s strategy of interlocking the projects of the legislative package. The package, consisting of around a dozen laws, aims to accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, they are expected to fall by 55 percent compared to 1990.

The bundle of projects is an important component of the EU’s so-called Green Deal, which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced. It is also a prerequisite for the goal of doing business in Europe in a climate-neutral manner by 2050 without risking short-term structural disruptions on the way there. “Everything is connected to everything else,” Frans Timmermans, Commission Vice-President responsible for climate protection, said when the package was presented.

Even then, the links caused irritation. The package solution does result in more bargaining chips for the EU Parliament and between the member states, which also have to agree to the laws. Compromises could become easier that way. However, this strategy did not work in the failed vote on Wednesday. The scope makes the project more cumbersome for everyone involved.

Commission officials had already complained about the heavy workload when the laws were being drafted. The EU Parliament also had to struggle with the scope of the legislation – not only in the committees, but also in the voting itself. On Wednesday, the MPs were supposed to vote on 1,265 amendments to the eight proposed legislation.

In the early evening, three more bills from the package were on the agenda – and three were adopted. This also included a de facto ban on cars and vans with internal combustion engines from 2035. MEPs voted in favor of a legislative proposal by the Commission, according to which only cars and vans that emit zero grams of CO2 can be registered in the EU from 2035.

The registration of cars with internal combustion engines is therefore excluded after 2034. This also applies to cars and vans that could be operated with synthetic fuels produced in a climate-neutral manner. Vehicles registered before 2035 are not affected by this regulation. However, before the regulation can actually come into force, the EU member states must also agree on it. They are currently discussing the proposal in parallel. The parliamentarians have also decided that emissions trading should also apply to air traffic in the future.

After the disastrous vote, mutual accusations escalated between the two central parties: the Greens and the Christian Democratic EPP. Both sides accused each other of using unsavory coalitions with Eurosceptic and right-wing national parties in parliament when voting.

The EPP, to which the CDU and CSU MPs belong in Parliament, had apparently concluded an agreement with the Eurosceptics of the ECR Group, dominated by the Polish PiS party, and the right-wing MPs of the ID Group for the vote – according to an EPP – MPs even at the highest level. During the vote, ECR and ID, who fundamentally reject ambitious climate protection, broke their commitments and voted with the Greens, for whom the compromises reached did not go far enough.

Now the environment committee has to find new compromises. CDU MP Peter Liese believes MPs could vote on a new compromise as early as the end of the month or in July before the summer break. It’s all about the details.

But not all parliamentarians share this view. “Negotiations have to start all over again,” says Green MP Michael Bloss. “For the 1.5-degree climate target, that means a great deal of hope.” The EU Parliament itself has been weakened by the failed vote. As a result, it has even less of a say in the far-reaching climate protection legislation than it already has. The 27 EU member states are deliberating on the “Fit for 55” legislative projects parallel to the parliament.

“It’s bad for parliament,” says Liese, who oversaw the law on emissions trading in parliament. “If Parliament already has a position while the Council is deliberating, Member States can take Parliament’s position into account. Now they will find a compromise themselves and that will be set in stone.”

The legislative procedure provides for member states and parliamentary representatives to negotiate a final compromise. In these negotiations, however, the states have more weight. Ultimately, Wednesday only knows losers: the President of the Commission, the European Parliament – and the climate.

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