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Finnish MEPs welcome EU climate package but call for stronger action

Two Finns on the environment committee hailed the compromise deal, while a third argued that the latest proposals do not go far enough.

MEP Silvia Modig (Left) ahead of an earlier European Parliament vote on the climate package. Image: Silvia Modigin kotialbumi.

The European Parliament approved key parts of the new EU climate package on Wednesday.

Finnish MEPs on the Parliament's environment committee had mixed reactions to the compromise deal, reached after extended wrangling between political blocs in the legislature.

The positions adopted by plenary session call for a reform of emissions trading, carbon tariffs and a climate fund to offset the effects of the green transition.

The compromise was struck after lawmakers rejected the entire carbon market law in a divisive first vote earlier this month, when lawmakers split over how quickly to end free permits against a backdrop of soaring energy costs and inflation, Euronews reports.

"Really strong" decision

Now all three proposals were approved by a clear majority after a deal struck between the three largest groups in Parliament: the centre-right EPP, the Socialists and Democrats S&D group and the centre-liberal Renew group.

"The Parliament's decision is really strong, because all the main parties are involved," MEP Nils Torvalds (SPP) of the Renew Group told Yle.

MEP Nils Torvalds (SPP) Image: © European Union 2018 - Source : EP

Torvalds, who has been an MEP for a decade, is a member of the legislature's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He represents the Swedish People's Party, which is part of the EU Parliament's Renew Europe, formerly known as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Alde).

"The main difference from the previous proposal is that we are now taking better account of the special circumstances of our European industry as a result of Russia's war. At the same time, everyone understands that this will require accelerated emission reductions in the future," Torvalds wrote in a column published on Wednesday.

Modig: "The level of ambition is insufficient"

Parliament called on the EU to introduce carbon tariffs on imports of high-emission products.

MEPs also agreed to end the free allocation of carbon allowances to companies. The Parliament agreed that the free credits should be phased out by 2032, a tighter stance compared to the proposal rejected two weeks ago. Some MEPs wanted more major reforms to emissions trading, though.

"The level of ambition is insufficient; it does not take us onto the path of the Paris Agreement. That's why I could not vote in favour of it," commented Silvia Modig (Left), another Finnish MEP on the environment committee.

However, according to Modig, the proposal is better than the current situation and a marginal improvement on the Commission's original proposal. Therefore, she did not vote against the bill, but instead abstained.

The third Finnish MEP on the committee, former environment minister Ville Niinistö (Green) from the Greens/European Free Alliance parliamentary group, commented ahead of the vote on Wednesday.

MEP Ville Niinistö (Green) with Modig on an Yle TV broadcast last month. Image: Ilkka Klemola / Yle

"As a result of the negotiations, a majority is likely to vote in favour of a stronger climate reform compared to the Commission's [stance] and the last vote. The fossil alliance between the EPP and the right wing has been rejected. Good," he said on Twitter.

He confirmed this in another tweet after the vote.

"And so it was, the [European] Parliament adopted a position that tightened up the Commission's proposal a little. Next, the reform of emissions trading will be finalised with the Council of Ministers, after which the law will be adopted," wrote the former Greens chair.

Higher energy costs to be addressed

MEPs also supported the Commission's proposal for a new Social Climate Fund to offset the social impacts of the green transition.

According to Parliament, the fund should be financed by additional revenues from emissions trading. Underlying this is a proposal to extend emissions trading to commercial fuel distribution and buildings.

Among other things, the fund is intended to offset the effects of expensive energy and encourage new, climate-sound investments.

The Parliament has yet to reconcile its position with that of the European Council and Commission, so the content of the climate package could still be in flux.