A summary of the debate is available.
EP Joint ENVI – D-US Committee: Exchange of views with H.E. Jerry Brown, Governor of California (8 November 2017)
ENVI Chair Adina-Ioana Vălean (EPP, RO) made the following opening remarks:
- she started by praising the importance of the Paris Agreement, saying that Trump’s decision was regrettable;
- however, state action alone would not be sufficient to fight climate change, civil society and academia needed to do their part;
- she praised the role of Mr Brown, as the founder of the Under2 Coalition and special advisor for states and regions.
Co-chair Christian Ehler (EPP, DE):
- after President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, engagement with the federal states was crucial. California was one of the most appreciated states, and shared with Europe the same commitment towards the environment;
- the fact that California had a different view from Trump was not an inconsistency with American politics, it just proved that the American system gave federal states a strong voice;
- the EU’s emission reductions were already codified in California, and the federal government also shared the same goal of reducing greenhouse gases to net 0;
- he praised the role of the federal states as Governor Brown had started the Under2 Coalition with the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany; the coalition had now 190 signatories.
- he stated that the meeting was a good opportunity to increase cooperation in fighting climate change, due to its borderless nature;
- climate change was receiving more attention because of the Paris agreement, but the level of commitment needed to fight the threat was still not commensurate. It had also become a very ideological issue;
- the nature of this threat was not always appreciated. He gave the example of the fire season in California, which lasted much longer than 6 months, because of climate change;
- the decarbonisation of the society was mandatory;
- climate change had a huge impact on food production, migration, etc. For all these reasons, he had decided to take aggressive measures in California, such as the cap-and-trade system, the low-carbon fuel standard by 2020, and at least 10% low-carbon energy efficiency for buildings;
- he recognised that in the US there was a lot of skepticism, people still treated climate change as a secondary issue;
- he praised Germany as one of the progressive forces in fighting climate change, but more effort was needed, since the goal was still far from being reached.
Intervention and questions by Members
Peter Liese (EPP, DE) Coordinator of ENVI:
- the issue of climate change in the US was really divisive; he referred to Chairman Weber who said that “climate change was the central task of our generation of politicians”. It would be appreciated if republicans in the US would use such words;
- Europe was united in tackling the challenge, and he mentioned the trilogue happening last night on the ETS. (He hoped there would be a decision on the prices).
Miriam Dalli (S&D, MT):
- she stressed that no other actors had increased their commitment to the Paris agreement after the US withdrawal;
- she recognised the important role of regions in tackling the challenge, but also the one played by stakeholders. She asked if Governor Brown thought that COP23 could formally recognise the role of the private sector in fighting climate change and if initiatives of the private sector played an important role in COP23.
Jeppe Kofod (S&D, DK):
- it was impressive how regions and cities were moving so fast in adapting policies to fight climate change;
- he asked which economic policies should be integrated into climate policy;
- he questioned Governor Brown on how to preserve the survival of multilateralism, suggesting binding commitments among actors.
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL):
- he praised Governor Brown for preserving the EU-US dialogue because it was becoming difficult to communicate with the government;
- he asked him what was the best way to cooperate in order to strengthen the economics of decarbonization, in particular if electric vehicles or zero emissions vehicles could work.
Claude Turmes (Greens/EFA, LU):
- in his view, there were still too few leaders to understand the threat;
- in his view, the ETS was irrelevant, and he was hoping that the trilogue would significantly change it and make it more useful;
- he recognised that the EU had made progress with renewable energy, but there was a greater problem: the car industry. He asked for advice on how to establish more penalties for the car lobbies, as in the EU there had been 35 million cars involved and zero penalties.
Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL):
- non-state actors were crucial in fighting climate change;
- he expressed disappointment with the new Commission proposal on CO2 in the transport sector;
- he praised California for doing more than the EU in terms of zero emissions vehicles policy.
Governor Brown’s answered to the first round of questions:
- regarding the questions of Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Claude Turmes and Bas Eickhout concerning the automotive sector: he gave the example of Harry Ford JR complaining that California was too aggressive with dioxide, but the state had not backed down and now the criteria were even stricter. He also praised Obama for enforcing the low emissions standards first in California, and then making them national. He chose these examples to show the close link between economics and politics.
- Concerning zero emissions and electric cars, he stressed that China had very aggressive requirements, stricter than its state, for example the fact that a certain number of electric cars had to be sold in order to sell other types. In his view, the external pressure of globalisation would also play a role in changing the automotive sector, and zero emissions vehicles would outperform normal vehicles with combustion engines. Concerning the large fine for car industries in the US, he gave a simple answer: it was only possible because the carmakers were not American but German, therefore they did not have to vote for them, again showing the close link between economics and politics. He continued by saying that the US were trying to use the money for climate-friendly investments in the automotive sector;
- regarding Jeppe Kofod‘s question about binding commitments, Governor Brown said that it could not happen because it was voluntary. However, some agreement could still be achieved with corporations. He said that even Treaties, which were binding, could still be withdrawn from. He also answered the second question of Kofod about integrating climate actions into other policies by giving the example of California being 27% renewable electric, which was also stimulating job creation. Governor Brown also mentioned the “Cap and Trade system”, which provided the state with more stable prices. Lastly, he mentioned that 5% of school buses in California were electric;
- regarding Miriam Dalli ‘s question about the role of private sector in COP23, Governor Brown said that this was the reason why he was going to Bonn himself.”Emissions come from somewhere, they come from businesses, cities, etc, so subnational actors are crucial”. In his view, Bonn would be a chance to give greater recognition to an unprecedented threat that needed a universal response. About the lack of increased commitment by other parties after the US withdrawal, he said that the reason relied on the fact that the threat was not being taken seriously. He also suggested that the withdrawal of the US should entail a cost, otherwise they would just be a free-rider.
Second round of questions/interventions
Younous Omarjee (GUE, FR):
- as a representative of Reunion island, the issue of climate change was tragic;
- he warned about the increase in global population to 10 billion inhabitants, which meant action needed to be taken urgently.
Piernicola Pedicini (EFDD, IT):
- the US were in denial about global warming and climate change, on the other hand, California was virtuous;
- in his view, in Europe the opposite was happening: the EU aimed to be the leader in climate change, but at regional level no effort was being made; he gave the example of Italy and the marine petrol extraction in the Adriatic Sea, which could happen 12 miles from the shore;
- he questioned Governor Brown about his opinion on the environmental risks in petrol extraction and if he supported a petition to make it a crime against humanity.
Janice Atkinson (ENF, UK):
- she distanced herself from the rest of the MEPs by stating that her group was glad that President Trump was in the White House and that they did not agree with California’s climate policies.
Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP, DE):
- he stated that climate change was a concerning issue and he would be pleased to have more partners willing to cooperate in tackling the challenge.
Gilles Pargneaux (S&D, FR):
- he referenced his future role as rapporteur for the implementation of Paris agreement in cities and regions;
- in his view, regional organisations had more weight than national governments in tackling pollution etc.
- he praised Governor Brown’s role in climate change, because a leader was needed and he wished COP23 was more than just a cooperation of technocrats;
- his question to Governor Brown concerned the political summit that Macron wished to organise with the UN and the World Bank to give more impetus to cooperation.
Jacqueline Foster (ECR, UK):
- she focused on the aviation sector: the EU had come up with the ETS 10 years ago, but it was difficult to be implemented at that time because third countries were needed;
- she spoke about the negotiations on CORSIA; the fact that the US had pulled out of the Paris agreement would not preclude them from being part of CORSIA given that it excluded maritime and the aviation sector;
- she stressed that the best way to achieve a global scheme was to have the Americans on board, so she asked Governor Brown to get the support in Congress.
Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE):
- she wondered why the threat of climate change had not been recognised yet as a problem, despite the efforts taken in describing its implications. She questioned Governor Brown on the reason for this.
Paul Brannen (S&D, UK):
- he focused on legislation that was currently being discussed in the EP, which suggested that no wooden pallets should be bought by countries that did not sign the Paris agreement – the US for example. He asked Governor Brown his opinion on that.
Anja Hazekamp (GUE, NL):
- climate change and global warming were threatening humans as well animals and plants;
- in her view, aside from the automotive sector, there was another major contributor, which was the farm animal industry. They were responsible for producing more greenhouse gases than the transport sector, therefore something needed to be done, especially regarding the reduction of consumption of meat and dairy. She asked Governor Brown whether he would recognise it as a cause of global warming.
Stefan Eck (GUE/NGL, DE):
- he praised Brown’s courage in speaking up. In his view, poor people were going to be the most affected, especially in Africa.
Governor Brown replied to the second round of questions:
- he agreed with Stefan Eck on the fact that the poor people were going to be the most affected and one of the consequences would be mass migration;
- regarding Karl-Heinz Florenz and Gilles Pargneaux‘s interventions, he agreed that cooperation was needed at all levels (including countries,businesses, religious leaders) as none of these measures to tackle climate change should be done in a dictatorial manner. He also stated that he would attend Macron’s summit;
- regarding Jacqueline Foster‘s question on CORSIA, he agreed that the US should join and he stated that he would send the Congressmen a letter, even if his influence was limited;
- regarding Paul Brannen‘s question on the wooden pallets, Governor Brown said that boycotting a country solely because it was not part of the Paris agreement would be wrong.
Source: One Policy Place