European Union member states can continue to hand out subsidies to uncompetitive coal mines until the end of 2018, industry ministers decided today (10 December).
The outcome amounts to a victory for Germany, which had pressed to keep subsidies for businesses mining hard coal until 2018, successfully overturning a proposal from the European Commission to end all state aid in 2014.
Ministers agreed that aid must be on a downward trend between 2011-18, although it will not fall as quickly as the Commission had wanted.
Mark Johnston at WWF, an environmental campaign group, said: “Europe’s 2020 low-carbon strategy just hit a big bump in the road.” He faulted the EU for slowing down on a promise to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies made at a meeting of G20 countries in 2009. “I don’t think that the aim of ending subsidies is derailed, it is delayed. But this extension is not good for Europe’s reputation among G20 nations.”
The likely outcome of the ministerial meeting became clear earlier in the week, when Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, indicated that the Commission was willing to change its proposal to meet the German view.
Without a change of heart from the Commission, there could have been no compromise, because under EU rules only a unanimous decision by member states can overturn a Commission proposal and some countries – Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden – remained wedded to an earlier phasing-out of subsidies.
The existing rules expire at the end of this month, which had put pressure on the EU to reach a quick decision.
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