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Going Nowhere: Poland Blocks EU Green Targets (Again)

Poland on Friday prevented the unanimous endorsement by the 27 European Union countries of a strategy document setting out paths to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, in yet another move showing the country’s opposition to any progress in the EU climate change agenda.

“Poland believes the European Union needs a deeper debate about its long-term energy policy,” the Economy Ministry said in a statement outlining its June 15 decision. “Energy efficiency is the backbone of long-term energy-climate policy, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions in the most cost effective manner,” the ministry said.

“It is not possible to reach consensus on this issue at this time,” said Martin Lidegaard, Denmark’s minister for energy and climate who led the negotiations. He also said during a meeting with his peers in Luxembourg that only one country opposed it. A diplomat said that nation was Poland.

Friday’s veto is the latest in a series of rejections by Poland to any endorsement, even with vague wording, of EU strategies aimed at setting the 27 countries on track to meet a 2050 indicative goal of cutting CO2 emissions by as much as 95% from 1990 levels.

Poland’s reticence has been heightening doubts about the future of the EU climate change policy, which has already been hurt by the euro-zone financial crisis that has caused a radical shift in European priorities.

Although the document under discussion Friday was only a policy strategy, any governmental endorsement would create the basis for possible, new legislative proposals by the European Commission, the EU executive power, to turn the strategy into reality.

“It’s necessary to have a global agreement on emission reduction with the full participation of the most important partners outside the EU,” Polish Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said in a statement Friday.

“Unilateral limits will lead to movement of energy-hungry industries outside the European Union to third countries, a phenomenon called carbon leakage,” Mr. Pawlak added.

Meeting the 2050 goal would force dramatic changes in some countries’ energy mix. Poland produces more than 90% of its electricity using coal—a major emitter of CO2—and it fears any move toward tough long-term targets would lead to higher prices, which would have an adverse effect on its economy.

Mr. Pawlak said increasing access to power from renewable sources needs to be balanced with energy security and maintaining economic competitiveness. “We can’t forget the effects [that reducing carbon emissions] can have on the Polish and EU markets.”

Poland fears that long-term goals to cut CO2 emissions would force it to stop using coal and increase the use of natural gas. That poses a danger for the country’s energy security because it would mean higher dependence on imports from Russia.

In March, Poland vetoed—for the second time in less than a year—the endorsement of another strategy document on climate change, which included a reference to general CO2 reduction targets for the next decades. The country feared that an endorsement of these targets would set the basis for binding rules.

The Wall Street Journal, 16 June 2012