Poland isolated as pressure mounts on EU to deliver 2030 climate deal

Warsaw holding out for more financial support as leaders head to Brussels for key two day European Council summit 

New Polish Ewa Kopacz faces an early test of her premiership (Pic: Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów/Flickr)

New Polish Ewa Kopacz faces an early test of her premiership (Pic: Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów/Flickr)

By Megan Darby

Poland is the only country resisting a 40% carbon target as part of the European Union’s 2030 package, sources close to negotiations say.

The eastern European state’s objections remain the biggest – but not the only – obstacle to sign-off of the EU 2030 climate and energy framework, scheduled for this week.

As national leaders head to Brussels, there is also last-minute wrangling over energy efficiency, renewable energy and interconnection targets.

All member states bar Poland are now broadly on board with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, with some willing to go further, an official told RTCC, but added Hungary was supportive of Warsaw’s position.

Leading climate expert Jim Skea told the BBC on Monday even 40% would likely be “too little too late”.

The vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said more action was needed early on if the EU is to meet its 2050 goal of an 80-95% cut.

“I don’t think many people have grasped just how huge this task is,” he said.

Poland, which depends on carbon-intensive coal generation for 90% of its power, has long pushed back against emissions limits.

Its ministers express fear the proposed regulations will force the country to switch to more expensive sources of energy, pushing up costs for industry and consumers.

Campaigners Avaaz have called for Poland's PM Eva Kopacz to show leadership and accept EU CO2 cuts

Campaigners Avaaz have called for Poland’s PM Eva Kopacz to show leadership and accept EU CO2 cuts

A draft agreement seen by RTCC proposes to channel money from the sale of 1-2% of carbon allowances to help poorer EU countries make that shift.

This, together with the EU’s solidarity fund and other support mechanisms is expected to be worth more than €10 billion a year for Poland alone.

There will also be effort-sharing arrangements, so Poland does not have to cut emissions as deeply as more developed countries.

But last Thursday, deputy prime minister Janusz Piechocinski was not yet satisfied, Reuters reported.

“The European Commission should not weaken the European economy, which is already undergoing a deep crisis,” he said on public radio station Trojka.

“The 40% option, which destroys half of European industry, is unacceptable.”

A coalition of 23 Polish environmental groups wrote to urge prime minister Ewa Kopacz to accept the deal on the table, saying it will create green jobs.

“Active and rational climate and energy policy will limit dependence of Poland on imports of fossil fuels and lead to further economic development,” said Zbigniew Karaczun of the Polish Ecological Club.

But Poland’s leading opposition party also supports a veto.

Leading economist Thomas Piketty, famous for his work on inequality, weighed into the debate with a letter to the Financial Times on Wednesday.

Along with fellow economists Claudia Kemfert of Germany and Cameron Hepburn of the UK, he backed a target of “at least” 40%.

They wrote: “Our political leaders are paralysed by a false choice. Some countries refuse to leave the high-carbon route, which leaves open the risk of climate change severely damaging our long-term prosperity.

“The economic disruption that followed major floods across Europe in the past 12 months is a harbinger of what is to come.”

Leaders have an “unprecedented” opportunity to steer investment towards low carbon growth, they added.

Industry voice

Business lobbies have also been putting out their messages ahead of the meeting.

The UK’s CBI declared its support for a 40% target, underpinned by a reformed emissions trading system.

Deputy director-general Katja Hall said: “As European leaders meet in Brussels, there will be some major economic and geopolitical issues on the agenda.

“It is vital that they make bold decisions on the future of the EU’s energy package for 2030 to give business the clarity it needs to make long-term investment decisions.”

But Energy Intensive Industries of Germany raised concerns about the impact of the target on industry.

While insisting members were committed to climate protection, spokesman Utz Tillmann told Euractiv: “If Europe chooses a solo effort through a one-sided climate protection target of 40% less emissions, it would mean billions in losses for us that our global competitors would not otherwise have gained.

“The damage done to competitiveness among energy-intensive companies in the EU would be considerable.”

Pyrenees fallout

Meanwhile, a regional dispute between Spain, Portugal and France could scupper the deal.

Spain and Portugal want to build cables across the Pyrenees to allow them to sell renewable energy surpluses across the border.

France is blocking these efforts over concerns about importing volatility into its grid.

Bruno Macaes, Portugal’s European secretary, reiterated his country’s plans to veto the package if it does not include a binding interconnection target.

“We will not support a deal that does not include a binding target because we need to create a stable, predictable regulatory framework in order to attract private investment,” he told Reuters.

UK prime minister David Cameron is also understood to be keen to put his country’s stamp on the deal.

Cameron is under pressure to show the UK has influence in Brussels, amid calls for a referendum to quit the EU.

The UK supports a single greenhouse gas reduction target, with no specific goals for renewable energy or energy efficiency.

The latest European Commission proposals include a 27% renewable target and a 30% energy efficiency improvement.

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