European Parliament Told Split Site Damages Climate

STRASBOURG, France, April 26, 2007 (ENS) - As the European Parliament Wednesday established a new climate change committee to develop policy options for the 27 member European Union, a new report was released documenting how the Parliament's own setup - with two locations and alternate meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg - is damaging the climate.

The new 60 member committee will start work May 10. It will draft proposals for a future climate change policy to be integrated across all EU member states and an EU negotiating position for climate policy after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

The EU is legally bound to meet the Kyoto target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

With the Kyoto Protocol's targets due to expire in 2012, European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas welcomed the formation of the new committee. He underlined the urgent need to launch international negotiations on a new global agreement to combat climate change at the next UN ministerial conference on climate change in December.

Dimas said the new panel could play a role in encouraging third countries, particularly the United States, to take action to tackle climate change. It could be very helpful in raising awareness and in pushing climate change to the top of the international agenda, he said.


European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas speaking at the European Parliament building Brussels, Belgium. (Photo courtesy Office of the Commissioner)
"The Parliament's support for strong action on climate change is very important in developing the [European] Community's agenda in this crucial area and I am confident the new committee will make a significant contribution in this regard as well as to the international debate," Dimas said.

The committee will hold hearings with the parliaments and governments of the member states and third countries, the European institutions and international organizations, as well as representatives of the scientific community, business and civil society, including the networks of local and regional authorities.

The powers of the European Parliament’s standing committees on climate change remain in place while the temporary committee can recommend measures or initiatives.

The committee will draw up an inventory of recent advances and future prospects in combating climate change and study their environmental, legal, economic, social, geopolitical, regional and public health impact. The committee also will analyze and evaluate the application of existing EU climate legislation.


The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France (Photo courtesy EP)
Some of the problem may lie with the way European Parliament, EP, is organized today, with a split site in Brussels and Strasbourg, according to a new independent study commissioned by UK Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas.

The first study of the climate change impacts of having two seats, warns that at a cost of more than €200 million euros and 20,268 metric tons of additional carbon dioxide emissions every year - more than some countries - such practice is damaging the environment and undermining EU efforts to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Based on "best case" data and estimates provided by the EU itself, the report includes only transport and energy emissions without examining other impacts. It projects that actual emissions are likely to be far higher, possibly in the region of 30,000 metric tons.

"The European Parliament is set to vote today to constitute a temporary committee on climate change," said Lambert on Wednesday. "Before we start throwing stones however, we should make sure that our own house or houses are in order."


Green MEP Jean Lambert represents London, England. (Photo courtesy UK Green Party)
"It is seriously damaging to the EP's credibility to have its MEPs chauffeur-driven in gas-guzzling cars, while working on legislation to set targets for EU car emissions, or to be debating EU renewables targets when 0 percent of the EP's energy comes from renewable sources," she said. "The EP has to lead not only in rhetoric but also in its actions."

Lambert and Lucas called on the EU to "put its own house in order" and end the "travelling circus" that sees 2,000 parliamentary staff and interpreters, nearly 1,000 assistants, journalists and lobbyists, 785 MEPs and 15 truck loads of trunks and documents relocated every month.

The study, researched by Professor of Sustainable Transport John Whitelegg of the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, totals the extra carbon emissions generated every month by MEPs, staff, journalists and visitors travelling from Brussels to Strasbourg and back, the carbon costs of freight between the two sites, and the energy needed to maintain the two Parliament buildings.

The study reports that ending the Strasbourg parliamentary sessions would cut the need at a stroke for 2,650 offices, a debating chamber and nearly 50 conference rooms, most with full translation facilities. That could cut emissions by 3,928 tonnes of CO2 just in electricity and gas alone.


Green MEP Caroline Lucas represents the UK's South-east region. (Photo courtesy EP)
"Maintaining two parliamentary chambers, with the office space this entails, and transporting up to 3,000 supporting staff and journalists to and fro clearly has a negative impact on the environment," said Lucas.

"This anachronistic arrangement is completely unnecessary and undermines the credibility of the EU in positioning itself as the leader in the global fight against climate change," she said.

Lambert said, "Strasbourg is a historic city that has symbolized post-war reconciliation but the European Parliament's Strasbourg seat has come to represent all that is wrong with the EU."

"Now we have evidence of the environmental damage it represents," said Lambert. "How much longer will EU heads of state and government bury their heads in the sand and refuse to end this ridiculous arrangement, which a clear majority of EU citizens and MEPs oppose?"

The Green MEPs suggest that the Parliament implement energy saving measures and a much greater use of video conferencing, update the EU's car fleet to make it more climate-friendly, and switch to a green energy provider.