January 14, 2015 / 5:06 PM / 4 years ago

European lawmakers torn over how early to begin carbon market reform

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European politicians meeting on Wednesday ahead of a critical vote next week on reforming the European Carbon market were unable to agree on a single date, putting forward both 2017 and 2019 as deadlines to begin action.

The EU’s Emissions Trading System is the bloc’s flagship policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions by charging for the right to emit carbon dioxide, but weak economic growth across Europe has cut industrial production and energy demand, creating a glut of more than 2 billion permits.

Bringing forward a plan to take surplus permits out of circulation has the backing of Germany and Britain, as well as major energy companies such as Britain’s SSE and Germany’s E.ON.

Both Britain and Germany have supported a date of 2017, earlier than the original proposal from the European Commission to begin in 2021.

On Tuesday, Antonio Tajani, a vice president in the European Parliament, who is chairing negotiations, said he had secured a deal in the main political grouping the European People’s Party for a date of 2019.

But debate on Wednesday resulted in two sets of amendments, with Liberal and Green political groups backing a start date of 2017 and Tajani holding to 2019, politicians told Reuters.

They said the vote at a committee in Brussels on Jan. 22 would be extremely close and intense lobbying would continue.

Prices of allowances on the European Emissions Trading System were lower in late trade, down 1.76 percent at 7.25 euros per tonne.

Green campaigners said even the 2019 date was positive in that it was earlier than the original Commission proposal.

“All parties support an early start to the market stability reserve. Some earlier than others. This is a very clear position from the parliament,” Sanjeev Kumar of the environmental group Change Partnership said.

Additional reporting by Nina Chestney, Editing by David Evans and Susan Thomas

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