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31st Jul 2016

Poland gears up for battle over CO2 emissions

Poland is stepping up its pressure to alter plans on how the EU's power sector should reduce CO2 emissions, with the country's prime minister, Donald Tusk, set to get "really very tough" when the issue comes up at the EU leaders' meeting next week (15-16 October).

"We want to do this [to produce clean electricity], but in a realistic period of time," one Polish diplomat said on Thursday (9 October), referring to the idea of reforming the union's emissions trading scheme - the cornerstone of its strategy against climate change.

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Under the overhaul, EU governments would no longer give away permits to pollute to the power sector for free. Instead, the industry would be forced to buy the right to emit carbon dioxide by auction, with full auctioning for the sector expected to kick in from 2013.

Poland claims that the reform does not take into account the country's current reality and is likely to harm its economy. Almost 95 percent of energy production is based on coal.

"We are not able to enter such a tough system from 2013," the diplomat said, calling for an "evolutionary way" - an approach that would see industry moving towards full auctioning gradually and buying 100 percent of pollution permits only from 2020.

"We are not able to make these investments within five years ... but it doesn't mean that we would do nothing," the Polish expert concluded.

French EU presidency plans to hold a "short, but concise discussion" on the issue during the EU leaders' summit that will see several hot topics discussed, including the global financial crisis and immigration.

Earlier this week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk linked the energy issue with the current economic outlook, saying "The international financial crisis makes it necessary to revise the energy and climate package to take into account the new circumstances."

"The nations of the EU cannot adopt decisions today that will contribute to an increase in the price of energy," he added, AFP reports.

Poland has already build a small coalition around itself, involving Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. But one diplomat told the EUobserver that the composition of the group is not carved in stone.

Power generating plants in some countries have reportedly already included the plans for full auctioning into their electricity prices, the diplomat said, underlining that if this is proved to be true, then there is no need to protect the industry by a phased-in approach.

The income from full auctioning will be delivered to national coffers.

The mood in the European parliament is also to leaning towards full quota auctions from 2013 as suggested by the commission. Brussels believes that new emission trading rules will help the 27-nation bloc reach the target, agreed by EU leaders in March last year, of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

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