3rd Feb 2023

Poland looks to climate 'present' from Sarkozy

  • Over 90 percent of Poland's electricity generation comes from coal (Photo: Wikipedia)

Eastern European foreign ministers in Warsaw on Monday (24 November) honed their climate package game plan ahead of the upcoming European summit.

Led by Poland, many of the newer member states are opposed to many aspects of the EU's climate and energy reforms, currently under negotiation between the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU capitals.

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The regular winter summit of European leaders, this year taking place on 11 and 12 December, is to wrap up the deal.

The 10 ministers at the Warsaw meeting - from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania - plus Sweden - ended the pow-wow saying they were hoping for new proposals from the French EU presidency that would moderate the package's goals.

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said that when French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits Gdansk on 6 December - Saint Nicholas' Day - he will, like his red-robed namesake, come bearing gifts.

"I hope he will bring us a present in the form of good proposals, proposals that will take into consideration our specific situation," the Polish minister said, Polish press agency PAP reports.

Poland's main concern is the proposed full auctioning of CO2 emissions permits for industry in 2013, arguing that this will result in a sharp increase in energy prices, hitting both poor households and economic growth.

Warsaw rejected a presidency proposal last week that would see half the emission permits given away for free until 2016 for those countries that depend on coal for 60 percent or more of their electricity. Over 90 percent of Poland's electricity generation comes from coal.

The Poles felt the three-year exemption did not go far enough.

Mr Sikorski threatened once again that if the package is not watered down in favour of the east, his country will veto any agreement.

"The package must be adopted unanimously," he said, adding: "We confirm that we will not hesitate to veto bad proposals, which means we want to negotiate good proposals."

Sweden attended the meeting to discuss a joint Polish-Swedish proposal for strengthening EU links with post-Soviet states and did not participate in the climate discussions.

Eastern NGOs disagree with their governments

Even as eastern leaders opposed elements of the climate package, civil society groups and green NGOs from the same countries are telling their governments to stop stalling and back the deal.

On Monday, 42 different groups, including WWF Hungary, Friends of the Earth Latvia, the Soros Foundation and local organisations without international ties such as Polska Zielona Siec in Poland and Za Zemyata in Bulgaria called on their governments to support the EU's climate and energy bundle.

"The EU has a historic responsibility to play a leading role in the fight against climate change globally," the groups stated in an open letter to their leaders. "Central and eastern European countries must decide if they want to belong to the group of leaders or those lagging behind."

They called on the countries to "reach a sustainable compromise and adopt the European Climate and Energy Package," including 100 percent auctioning of emissions permits, and to do so before a key international meeting on climate change action, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Poznan taking place the first two weeks of December.

"Postponing further action will bring about much more damage and cost to our societies and economies than acting today," the groups said.

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