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Polish Elections Complicate EU Quest For Paris Climate Stance

Barbara Lewis, Reuters

Looming parliamentary elections in coal-dependent Poland will bedevil European Union efforts on Friday to agree a strong position for a global deal to tackle climate change.

EU environment ministers meet in Brussels on Friday to finalise the bloc’s negotiating position for a U.N. climate summit in Paris starting at the end of November.

“We’re going to have lots of trouble tomorrow (Friday). The election is a problem,” one EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Many EU nations are eager to retain the leading role the bloc has taken in moving to lower carbon energy, but Poland, whose economy relies on coal, says the cost of shifting from fossil fuels will undermine EU competitiveness unless the rest of the world is in step.

Warsaw has support from other east European nations, diplomats said.

Parliamentary elections in Poland in October could see victory for the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has campaigned on a promise to defend the nation’s coal industry and resist EU environment policy.

The major sticking points on Friday include the issue of five-year reviews that would allow more ambitious pledges on climate action coupled with wording there must be “no backsliding” from promises already made.

Nations could also haggle over the setting of longer term goals and demands for the Paris agreement to be “legally binding”, an issue that will also be fraught at U.N. talks.

“There is no doubt for us the Paris agreement must be legally binding,” Carole Dieschbourg, environment minister for Luxembourg, current holder of the EU rotating presidency, told a debate in Brussels on Thursday.

France, as the host of the Paris talks, is particularly keen for an ambitious position on Friday.

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