Poorest should get EU climate fund sooner, lawmakers say

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Newly-elected president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola delivers a speech during a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

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BRUSSELS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - A new fund to support Europe's poorest households during the shift to green energy should kick in a year earlier than planned, in 2024, an early draft of European Parliament's position on the proposal said.

The European Commission said last year it would launch a "social climate fund" in 2025 to shield vulnerable citizens from higher bills that could arise from a EU carbon market for buildings and transport fuels.

The fund would total 72 billion euros ($81.60 billion) under the Commission proposal, and aims to overcome some countries' resistance to the new carbon market, which they fear could face a public backlash if it adds to energy bills.

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A draft of Parliament's amendments to the fund proposal, seen by Reuters, would also increase the carbon market revenues that go into the fund if carbon prices increase - possibly resulting in more cash.

"The green transition should be feasible for everyone, not just those who can afford it," Esther de Lange, one of the two lead lawmakers on the proposal, said.

The fund could support electric car subsidies, energy-saving home renovations and train workers to renovate, fit rooftop solar panels and install electric vehicle chargers.

Temporary subsidies could also help citizens pay their bills, but should be limited to a three-year period, the lawmakers said.

Other changes proposed by the lawmakers would restrict funding to the cheapest half of the low-emission vehicles in a country's market each year - which they hope would create a second hand market for affordable electric cars.

"The fund should not be used to buy Teslas with a hefty price tag, but rather small- and medium-sizes cars for everyday families," de Lange said.

Once parliament agrees its amendments, it must negotiate the final details of the fund with EU countries - a process that will take months.

The lawmakers also want to create EU-wide definitions of energy and transport poverty, covering households who spend a disproportionate share of their disposable income on energy costs or transport.

($1 = 0.8824 euros)

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Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Barbara Lewis

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