France backs fossil fuel 'price floor' to boost climate ambition

by Reuters
Tuesday, 28 April 2020 11:11 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Smoke billows from the chimneys of a coal-fired power plant in Poland, May 7, 2009. REUTERS/Peter Andrews/File Photo

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The EU has been urged to ensure fossil fuel prices do not plummet downwards, which would risk undermining climate initiatives

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, April 28 (Reuters) - The European Union should impose policies to underpin fossil fuel prices to protect the bloc's climate ambitions during its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the French government said.

EU ministers are meeting on Tuesday to discuss the role of energy markets in supporting economic growth following the outbreak. A majority of EU countries have said the bloc's recovery plan must uphold its Green Deal policy to decarbonise by 2050.

In a document sent to ministers ahead of the virtual meeting, which was seen by Reuters, France called for the EU to use energy taxes or its carbon market to prop up fossil fuel prices, so that the "extremely low prices" seen during the pandemic do not thwart climate ambitions.

"The cost of fossil energies should be proportionate to their true environmental impact in order to avoid burdening energy transition policies with any unnecessary risks," the document said.

France proposes setting a minimum price for fossil fuels through changes to EU energy taxation or the emissions trading system (ETS), the EU's carbon market policy that forces power plants, factories and airlines to pay for the carbon dioxide they produce.

This could be done by adding a carbon floor price in the EU ETS and introducing measures to bolster the ETS market stability reserve, which removes surplus carbon permits from the system to avoid a build-up of supply that could pressure the CO2 price.

But France's proposal is likely to run into resistance from countries including Poland, which has warned that the economic hit from the pandemic will make EU climate policies harder to achieve.

Poland has asked for the ETS to be reviewed in light of the pandemic.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive, plans to review the carbon market and EU energy taxation rules next year to align the policies with its emissions-cutting ambitions.

Countries including the Netherlands have previously called for a floor price in the EU carbon market. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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