Poland Vetoes EU Carbon-Reduction Roadmap
The European Commission’s low-carbon roadmap for 2050 encountered a setback earlier this month when EU member state Poland used its veto to protest newly proposed reduction milestones. Poland - which is almost entirely dependent on coal for electricity generation - says the economic repercussions of the targeted cuts would be too burdensome.
With one of the fastest economic growth rates in Europe, Polish policymakers are hesitant to implement any major changes - particularly given current economic conditions in Europe. Officials point to dire economic predictions as evidence against the one-size-fits-all solution.
Pitor Jezowski, a professor at the Warsaw School of Economics, projects that adopting the proposed roadmap would cost Poland one percentage point of economic growth every year until 2030. Polish officials say fellow member states Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania are also second-guessing their original support for the new milestones.
In 2008 the EU unanimously agreed to reduce carbon-emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The expanded roadmap - championed by Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action - seeks to establish additional milestones every decade. The new plan would recommend a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, a 60 percent reduction by 2040, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
Poland’s dependence on coal for some 94 percent of its electricity generation has fuelled opposition to the new measures. Marcin Korolec, Poland’s Environment Minister, argued in a recent editorial that the proposed roadmap is too simplistic.
“Our economies differ,” Korolec writes. “Our long-term climate policy should reflect these differences, by providing member states with a flexible set of tools from which to choose those that are acceptable and fitted to their policy needs.”
The minister argues that energy policy independence is an important element of bloc membership.
“We need a framework that respects the treaty-guaranteed right of each member state to design its energy mix according to its needs,” he said.
Warsaw’s opposition to EU carbon reduction goals has been ruffling feathers in Brussels for some time now. In June 2011, Poland was the only EU member state to oppose a more ambitious 25 percent 2020 emissions reduction target. Poland also broke from the rest of the EU at the recent climate talks in Durban, refusing to back a plan that would reduce the surplus of Kyoto carbon permits.
This latest move has triggered the ire of some fellow member states who insist that even coal reliant countries like Poland will benefit from a greener approach to European energy.
“The outcome shows how we must redouble our efforts in explaining to Poland that shifting to a low-carbon economy is part of long term growth in Europe,” said Ed Davey, Britain’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary. The UK has committed to slashing emissions by 30 percent by 2020.
Jo Leinen, a German Social Democrat expressed similar sentiments.
“Poland is not only slowing down their own country, but also the aspirations and opportunities for sustainable growth in the other 26 Member States.”
Several industrial groups, however, have noted that further European commitment to emission-reduction schemes would be foolish in absence of a global agreement.
“Setting unilateral more ambitious EU emissions targets for 2030 and 2040 while ignoring at the same time the limited - if any - mitigation efforts third countries are prepared to make will not help investment in the EU,” the European Alliance of Energy Intensive Industries said in a statement.
Korolec has also pointed to the rising level of emissions from developing nations, like India and China, arguing that an agreement that is not binding to all nations puts Europe at a distinct competitive disadvantage. In a letter to his fellow environment ministers, Korolec argued that all reduction proposals - beyond the existing 20 percent reduction by 2020 - should be handled under the umbrella of the global UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Europe should still lead the process,” he conceded. “We should, though, be very conscious of our relatively small contribution to global emissions.”
ICTSD Reporting; “Poland blocks EU efforts on carbon limits,” REUTERS, 9 March 2012; “Poland tries to block EU emission goal,” WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12 March 2012; “Poland blocks EU’s low-carbon roadmap,” EUROPEAN VOICE, 10 March 2012; “Climate roadmap at a crossroads,” EUROPEAN VOICE, 8 March 2012; “Poland opposes EU environment ambition,” REUTERS, 7 March 2012.
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