At last Friday’s EU environment ministerial in Brussels, Poland again – for the second time – blocked a ministerial resolution endorsing the European Commission’s low-carbon 2050 roadmap. Last June, it said it didn’t like the reference to a 25% emissions cut in 2020 – the EU is currently committed to just 20%.
This time, it turned out the problem runs deeper: Poland doesn’t like the whole trajectory from now to 2050.
The European Commission’s low-carbon 2050 roadmap sets out a greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 80-95% by 2050. This end-point was approved by European leaders in October 2008. To get there, the Commission suggests a 40% reduction by 2030 and a 60% reduction by 2040 (all just suggestions, none of them legally binding).
Brussels also believes a 25% reduction in 2020 is a given if the EU meets its indicative 20% energy efficiency goal for 2020 – the aim of the energy efficiency directive currently being debated by member states and the European Parliament.
But Poland doesn’t share this analysis. Prime Minister Donald Tusk signed up to a joint EU-27 call for “rapid progress” on the low-carbon roadmap at an EU summit in Brussels on 2 March, but it is only the end-point that Poland (still) supports. It does not see eye to eye with the other EU-26 on how to get there.
EU climate policy should be tied to global climate policy, Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec told reporters after Friday’s council. With agreement on a new global climate treaty only due in 2015 – as agreed in Durban – it’s “a little premature” to decide on Europe’s future climate policy today, he said.
Poland is “not at all” opposed to a long-term climate policy for Europe, Korolec said. “[But] we have to know what is the real ambition of our partners… and act according to that. If we follow some ideas in the roadmap, what could be our offer in the global negotiations? To eliminate agricultural emissions? To drive only electric cars?” he asked.
Europe must act “according to the speed of global developments”, he concluded, or watch its energy-intensive industries depart and its economy suffer. Poland wants a country-by-country, sector-by-sector analysis of what the Commission’s low-carbon 2050 roadmap will cost.
Poland may have been the sole voice of opposition to the roadmap on Friday, but the Czech Republic and Romania at least, reportedly support it behind the scenes. Poland’s antagonism to European climate policy runs deep. Korolec described the agreeing the EU’s 2008 climate and energy package as “extremely painful” on Friday. And the consensus on climate action it represents as “fragile”. It should be remembered that this is a country that relies on coal for over 90% of its electricity production.
Does it matter what Poland thinks? Everyone is saying Poland has “blocked” the roadmap, but all it has done is prevent its unanimous endorsement by the EU-27. Poland has not “vetoed” the roadmap just as David Cameron did not “veto” EU treaty change – in both cases they opted out rather than forced a change of direction.
EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard made clear on Friday that the Commission will pursue its climate plans: “It would have been better if 27 had been in favour but… just as in the international climate talks we would not accept it if one country blocks, we will not accept this. We will come with the proposals needed [to implement the low-carbon 2050 roadmap],” she told reporters.
With one of the EU’s biggest member states dissenting with several others in tow, this will not be an easy ride.