* Energy saving a priority for Danish EU presidency
* Carbon market intervention would need Commission proposal
* Broad support for compromise proposals
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Feb 28 European Union
politicians are expected on Tuesday to back action to prop up
the collapsed carbon market, as part of a wider debate on energy
saving, putting pressure on the EU executive to tackle a huge
surplus of pollution permits.
Anticipation of a positive vote in the European Parliament
has helped to drive up EU carbon allowances from a low of less
than 7 euros in December to above 9 euros.
Supporters of market intervention span the political divide
and include industry as well as the environmental lobby. They
argue decisive parliamentary backing would make it hard for the
European Commission, the 27-member bloc's executive, not to act.
In December an environment committee vote called for the
withdrawal of 1.4 billion carbon permits from the market
beginning in 2013.
But the specific number was passed by only one vote.
In an effort to win cross-party consensus, Tuesday's
industry committee will instead vote on a compromise amendment
asking the Commission to consider measures that could include
withholding "the necessary amount" of allowances.
"There is a very broad consensus with all the political
groups," Claude Turmes, vice president of the Greens, who is
steering the energy efficiency draft through parliament, told
reporters, referring to the package of compromise amendments.
"It will be supported by a broad majority," German Christian
Democrat parliamentarian Peter Liese told Reuters.
But, he added, Polish members of the European Parliament's
main centre-right grouping were against any form of set-aside.
Heavily reliant on coal, Poland is concerned about the
impact of stronger carbon prices on its economy.
The carbon amendment has been thrown into the efficiency
debate because of an assumption any improvement in the EU's
record on energy saving would drive down carbon prices further.
Recession has already led to a huge surplus of allowances
and pushed prices far below the level needed to encourage a
shift towards a low carbon economy.
The Energy Efficiency Directive itself is a legislative
priority for Denmark's EU presidency, which has said it aims to
get a political deal on it before its leadership finishes at the
end of June.
Members of the Parliament have devoted months of debate to
reducing around 2,000 amendments to 18 proposals.
Turmes said the compromises combined flexibility with
greater ambition than the Commission's proposal.
But even if they now have broad parliamentary backing, EU
ministerial debate, which will follow, could be difficult.
"This directive is a key directive for the EU economy to
restart," Turmes said, referring to its power to create jobs and
reduce dependency on expensive foreign imports of oil and gas.
But it is still very divisive.
"Everybody says 'yes', they're in favour when you ask them
about efficiency, but as soon as you go down to decide measures,
a lot of actors and very powerful actors do not really want to
see efficiency become real," Turmes said.
Efficiency was one of a set of three 2020 targets set in
March 2007 to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent, increase the
share of renewables in the energy mix by 20 percent and reduce
energy use by 20 percent through measures such as insulation.
The efficiency goal is the only non-binding target of the
three and it is the one the EU will not meet unless the draft
law is passed in a form strong enough to change behaviour.
The draft law proposed by the Commission would require
energy firms to achieve annual energy savings equal to 1.5
percent of their sales, and the renovation of 3 percent of the
floor area of public buildings.
The 3 percent has been whittled down to 2.5 percent by the
compromise amendments under discussion in parliament, but other
requirements are introduced, including "deep renovation", which
amounts to 75 percent of energy reduction in a building.
(Editing by Charlie Dunmore and Jason Neely)