17th Aug 2022

Brussels tightens screw on Polish CO2 plan

  • The vast majority of Polish electricity comes from carbon-polluting coal resources (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission has praised a French plan to cut CO2 emissions but told Poland and the Czech Republic they must cut back further by 2012.

The EU executive has now told 14 member states to lower their proposed emission plans out of so far 17 assessed plans for the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) 2008-2012 period - the bloc's main tool in the fight against global warming.

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"The French government has clearly shown the need to ensure that the [ETS] remains a successful weapon for fighting climate change that other regions and countries can emulate," EU environment minister Stavros Dimas said in a statement on Monday (26 March).

But the commission wording was less flattering concerning the two other EU nations' national allocation plans on emissions.

Poland - the EU's third biggest carbon polluter - has been asked to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 26.7 percent down to 208.5 million tonnes per year, while the Czech Republic has been asked to reduce its CO2 emissions by 14.8 percent to 86.8 annually.

Czech environment minister Martin Bursik said in a statement that he accepted the Brussels decision and added that it would not damage Czech industry.

But his Polish neighbour and counterpart Jan Szyszko has said he will analyse Brussels' decision before saying yes or no.

Last week, Mr Szyszko told reporters that Poland needed a higher limit because its forecast for economic growth is higher than the EU average - Poland believes it will grow by 6 percent a year in 2008-2012 compared to the EU's 4.5 percent, according to AP.

He also said it was unfair for the EU to use 2005 as a reference point, as it was a warmer-than-average year which meant Poles used less energy to heat their homes in winter.

"We do not take the Polish argument that we have treated Poland in a discriminatory way - on the contrary, our first goal in assessing these plans is to be sure that no country has an advantage or a disadvantage over any other country," Mr Dimas' spokeswoman, Barbara Helfferich told journalists.

She added that the limit Poland had asked for was "way, way above" real emission releases.

"The commission is confident that the decision it has taken today on Poland reflects both the needs of Poland to develop its alternative technologies and to bring its businesses towards low-carbon economy," Ms Helfferich said.

Overly generous allowances

The strong line from Brussels comes after member states in past years gave themselves rather generous allowances which in some cases allowed industry to pollute even more than before, making a mockery of the scheme.

Under ETS, industry is given a number of pollution credits allowing those who pollute less to sell their allowances to dirtier companies.

The scheme came into effect in January 2005 with great fanfare as the first of its kind in the world. The commission had hoped to see a buoyant carbon market quickly established, but prices plummeted last year once it became clear that member states were too free with allowances.

"Today's decisions are of vital importance to create the necessary scarcity in the European carbon market and make the Emissions Trading Scheme a successful weapon for fighting climate change," Mr Dimas stated.

Nine plans left to go

Only France, Slovenia and the UK have so far been allowed to continue with the quotas of carbon emissions permits that they proposed in the first place.

Brussels is still assessing another nine national allocation plans, while Bulgaria has not yet handed in its CO2 homework.

The EU has promised under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change to reduce CO2 emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Earlier this month it made a further pledge to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

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