Poland vetoed new carbon targets at a meeting of EU environment ministers on Friday. Now, there is growing support of neighbors including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania in a bid to block the initiative permanently.
Poland is lobbying its neighbors on the European Union’s less-affluent eastern edge as it seeks to block efforts by the regional group to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, arguing that the planned cuts will hurt economic growth and fuel inflation.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has drafted a proposal to slash carbon-dioxide output by 2050 to levels so low that Polish officials say they would virtually rule out the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Warsaw vetoed the plan at a meeting of EU environment ministers Friday, and Polish officials say they are now starting to gain the support of its neighbors including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania in a bid to block the initiative permanently.
Coal-rich Poland is the largest of the ex-Soviet bloc countries to join the EU, in 2004, and it has long aimed to represent the EU’s eastern flank on vital regional issues. The country generates more than 90% of its electricity from coal and, after more than four decades of communist rule, it is still far less well off than its peers in Western Europe.
“The plan won’t help the climate, while the European economy, which is barely on its feet, will have additional problems,” Marcin Korolec, Poland’s environment minister, said Monday. “We need to look for solutions we’ll actually be able to implement.”
The commission will now attempt to draft a compromise solution and put it forward for another vote. “Poland’s ‘no’ to the European Commission’s low-carbon road map is unfortunate, but it will not stop Europe from moving on with its transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s commissioner for climate action. She said the commission’s work was supported by all EU members but Poland, and it wouldn’t be right “if the most reluctant one dictates the pace to the rest.”
EU nations agreed in 2008 to cut the bloc’s CO2 emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. The commission’s new plan calls for a drop of 80% to 95% of those 1990 levels by 2050.
Mr. Korolec, the Polish minister, said that such a target is based on an expectation that by 2050, “the energy sector won’t use natural gas or coal.”
The plan includes a 70% cut to CO2 emissions from transportation, including aviation, and all private cars would have to be electric, he said.
Mr. Korolec added that Poland has already cut its emissions by 30% from 1990 levels.
The target also is impractical, Mr. Korolec said, until other major industrial nations agree to similar cuts. “It’s a great vision that we’ll be able to free ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels. However, we need to look for tools that will allow us to get there,” Mr. Korolec said. “The commission’s goals are too ambitious.”
The EU’s targets could reduce Poland’s economic output by 1 percentage point per year until 2030, said Piotr Jezowski, researcher at the Warsaw School of Economics.
Polish officials said they have informal backing in its opposition to the proposed rules. “I didn’t have a feeling Friday of being alone,” Mr. Korolec said. “The countries in our regions share our view….Coordination is already taking place.”