By Ed King
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey says he is planning to embark on a new diplomatic push to encourage Poland to adopt the EU’s proposed 30% carbon emissions target.
Davey said the move would make economic sense for the EU, and would also ensure Europe maintained its position of ‘leadership’ ahead of the UN climate talks in Qatar later this year.
“We believe our analysis shows that it is in Poland’s national interests – we want to work with the Poles and assist them and get Europe back on a more ambitious trajectory,” the Cabinet minister said in a speech at Chatham House, London.
Poland, which relies on coal for over 90% of its electricity production, has been resisting EU plans for deeper emission cuts throughout the year – with Environment Minister Marcin Korolec quoted as saying it was ‘gambling’ with their economic future.
Davey says he will use a meeting with Korolec in London this week to try and address Polish concerns – before the pair meet again at the EU environment ministers summit in Berlin at the weekend.
There the focus will be on the huge surplus of European Emission Trading scheme credits – which have seen the price for carbon plummet to around 8 euros per tonne of CO2 – and new emissions targets.
Poland is currently isolated on this issue within the EU, but it’s a stance that plays well with voters at home – concerned about rising energy prices and a sagging economy – and Davey insisted that the EU will not drag Poland into the consensus over emissions targets kicking and screaming.
“My German counterpart and I are working particularly hard to find a way to help bring Poland into that coalition,” he said.
“Their support mustn’t be at any price, but looking a little further ahead, it’s better if Europe moves together.
“In the next few years we need to start discussing 2030 emissions targets, and longer term reform of the ETS. If Poland remain where they are it will be a struggle.”
Road to Doha
The EU played a major role in securing the Durban Platform agreement at the last round of UN climate talks – with Davey’s predecessor Chris Huhne at the heart of negotiations.
With Doha looming, EU ministers are aware they need some new gifts to bring to the table – or risk losing their hard fought influence and leverage that saw them face down India and China in a stormy final session at COP17.
Ironically, given Poland’s EU Presidency in the second half of 2011, Korolec was one of the architects of Europe’s ‘diplomatic triumph‘ in Durban.
Praise was heaped on him and lead climate negotiator Connie Hedegaard for the coalition building skills that saw the EU form a formidable alliance with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Those links may have faded, but Davey is keen to build momentum again ahead of COP18.
“Moving to 30% will be an act of climate statesmanship, one that speaks to Europe’s reason for being: collective action for the betterment of our citizens,” Davey said.
“And – by ensuring we enter the negotiating room from a position of strength, commitment and leadership – it can help secure a better future for all the world’s citizens, too.”
Go green or lose competitiveness
The Climate Change and Energy Secretary also echoed comments from the leading voice of British industry – the CBI – who last week said choosing between green or growth is a mistake, revealing that the green business sector was worth 8% of GDP.
“The UK’s green economy grew by £5.4 billion last year – that’s 4.7% growth, even as the rest of the economy was struggling. It created more than 25,000 jobs last year, and now employs nearly one million people,” he said.
“Globally, the clean energy market is increasingly competitive and fizzing with opportunities. Not just for our companies, who are competing in a £3.3 trillion global market, growing at 3.7% per year, but for our economies, too.
“The UK is 6th in the world in the low-carbon sector, with an industry worth £122 billion. I want us to secure a greater share of this vibrant and growing sector. Not because I’m a hair-shirted hippy, or bound by ideology; but because I believe in following the evidence.”
RELATED VIDEO: Polish climate chief Tomas Chruszczow explains why accepting new emissions targets is not an easy decision for his country.