EU trade deals must not contradict climate goals, says MEP
The EU’s trade deal with four South American countries will not be ratified in its current form because it contradicts Europe’s plans to confront the climate emergency, a leading MEP has said.
Pascal Canfin, a Frenchman who chairs the European parliament’s environment committee, said he could not vote in favour of the EU trade deal with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (the bloc known as Mercosur).
“The Mercosur text will never be ratified by some national parliaments,” as it stands Canfin told the Guardian in an interview. He said he could see no majority in the French national assembly for the agreement “as it is”, given the “political context with Bolsonaro”.
Under Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, about two football pitches of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being lost every minute, the highest level of deforestation in a decade, pushing the country off track from its climate targets.
Speaking before the launch of the EU’s “green deal” plan this Wednesday, Canfin said Europe’s trade deals could not contradict the bloc’s goals on climate action.
“The EU is the first trade power in the world, so we have to use these trade deals in order to contribute to our vision of what is the right globalisation. And you can’t have climate action in one way and globalisation destroying climate,” he said.
“I want to have it recorded I am not against trade deals and France is not against trade deals. But we need to take into account there is a massive change in expectations.”
Any wide-ranging EU trade deal that strays into national government competence must be ratified by around 35 national and regional parliaments, as well as the European parliament.
A leaked slideshow on the green deal shows that respecting the Paris climate agreement will be an “essential element of every future EU trade agreement”, although details are scant.
The EU-Mercosur trade pact was agreed in June after two decades of stop-start negotiations, but in September as fires raged in the Amazon as a result of land clearance by farmers and developers, Emmanuel Macron threatened to block the deal.
Although the pact includes a chapter intended to protect social and environmental standards, Canfin said it was not enough and the protections should be enforceable and legally binding.
Canfin, a former head of WWF France, once sat as a Green MEP and returned to the European parliament in May under Macron’s Renew Europe banner, although he is not a member of Macron’s national party, La République En Marche.
He was responsible for the text by which the European parliament declared a climate emergency last month, something he described as “a message to the rest of the world that Europe raises the bar”. He will play a role in shaping a raft of EU laws that will emanate from the green deal plan over the next five years, spanning energy, farm subsidies and transport.
Trade is just one piece of the plan, which is intended to transform the EU into a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050.
According to the leaked slides seen by the Guardian, the plan includes:
A climate law to enshrine the 2050 net zero target, and a plan to reduce greenhouse gases by “at least 50% and towards 55% by 2030 in a responsible way” – as widely expected following a previous leak.
Targets to cut use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers while increasing the area of land dedicated to organic farming. The commission, which is responsible for drafting EU laws, has yet to agree on specific targets but is considering a proposal of a 50% cut in pesticide use by 2030. The text is blank on a target for fertilisers and organic farming, suggesting arguments continue less than 36 hours before the publication of the plan.
Tougher air pollution standards for cars and vans, and bringing ships into the EU emissions trading system.
A plan to raise €35bn from public and private sources to help countries leave behind coal as part of a “just transition”.
Speaking before the leaks emerged, Canfin said the plan had to ensure industry could go green and remain in Europe, to avoid losing factories to China and India.
“We all know that we will never deliver on the climate neutrality if we do not address for real what it means to be a carmaker, a steelmaker, an airline company and so on [in a carbon-neutral economy]. Otherwise it means we are not really serious with carbon neutrality, or that we are not serious with the industrial base and ready to relocate.”
He stressed that green taxes should fund green policies, a lesson he drew from the gilets jaunes protests that were sparked by a fuel tax increase and morphed into a broader anti-Macron protest. “If the transition is not just and not perceived as just, we will not deliver, and that is exactly what happened in France with the carbon tax.”
He disagreed with the EU executive’s ambition on climate targets, saying a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was “clearly not enough”. His centrist group wants a reduction of at least 55%, which green campaigners say is inadequate to meet the emergency.
The EU has smashed previous carbon-cutting targets, partly by exporting emissions to China and other manufacturing centres in the far east. To get round this problem, Canfin is working with UK Liberal Democrat MEPs on a “global footprint target” that would assess how far the EU needs to reduce emissions based on its consumption of imported goods. This work in progress is not expected to feature in the green deal and Canfin said it was “way too early for concrete figures”.
Another key ingredient will be overhauling Europe’s common agricultural policy, which props up the intensive farming that has fuelled pesticides pollution and a stunning decline in wildlife. Canfin said he wanted to maintain the €59bn annual CAP budget but redistribute it by capping the amount available to large landowners.
He said farmers needed to be compensated for the more expensive cost of production if the EU restricted pesticides and fertilisers. “How could you argue that the EU ban pesticides in Europe and you have an extra cost for farmers, but you still accept imports with the very same pesticides – and you can’t compete?”
The European parliament will co-legislate new farming rules and approve the final outcome in a plenary vote. “I can’t see how the CAP can get out of the plenary without strong greening of everything, but also making sure that there is more revenue for farmers, and that is the balance,” the MEP said.
But he may face tricky negotiations with the parliament’s agriculture committee, where nearly half the members are farmers or have had farming interests at some point, according to research by Prof Alan Matthews, of Trinity College Dublin. The academic stressed his finding did not mean the MEP farmers shared a common view.