22nd Oct 2016

Poland blocks climate efforts in 'dark day' for Europe

Poland has scuppered an attempt to tighten European Union carbon emission targets, sparking widespread concern just days before Warsaw is set to take over the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

EU environment ministers met in Luxembourg on Tuesday (21 June) to discuss the European Commission's '2050 Roadmap' towards a greener economy, with all-but-one member states agreeing on the need to do more.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Poland's EU commissioner has questioned the man-made nature of climate change (Photo: Notat)

After the meeting, British energy secretary Chris Huhne summed up the mood by saying: "It is a dark day for Europe's leading role in tackling climate change."

Published in March, the roadmap calls for a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, a 60 percent cut by 2040 and a 80 percent cut by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

It also says that a 25 percent cut by 2020 would be the most 'cost-effective' way of achieving these longer-term targets, compared to the EU's current pledge of 20 percent.

The language proved too ambitious for Poland however, where 90 percent of electricity is generated from coal. "The one that actively said it could not support this language was Poland," an EU source told this website.

"It is unclear where we go from here," continued the contact, pointing to the unanimity needed for EU decisions in this area. "The council's work programme for the next six months will be established by Poland. Today's result was unexpected."

Polish environment minister Andrzej Kraszewski said: "We expect greater solidarity within Europe and an understanding of the situation of specific member states."

In March, ministers of Britain, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Sweden called for a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020, with EU officials privately suggesting that the smaller 25 percent cut could be a suitable compromise.

Environmental NGOs were greatly disheartened by the news on Tuesday. Jason Anderson of the WWF said Poland's move showed a "shocking disregard for climate protection and economic revitalisation".

European businesses remain divided on the subject, although a growing number have warmed to more ambitious carbon cuts as a means of stimulating Europe's green technology sector, forecast to provide thousands of jobs in the future.

Seventy large businesses, including Google, Unilever and Scottish and Southern Energy, recently came out in favour of tougher cuts, although the European Federation of Iron and Steel Industries (EUROFER) and the Business Europe lobby group remain opposed.

MEPs are also set to outline their position on cutting carbon emissions this week, with several Conservative MEPs indicating their lack of support for the British government's ambitious position.

Divisions also exist within the commission itself, with budget commission Janusz Lewandowski questioning the very notion of man-made climate change.

"We already have overambitious agreements on CO2 emission reduction," he told Polish press in a recent interview, reports the Guardian.

"There is a notion that the thesis that coal energy is the main cause of global warming is highly questionable. Moreover, more and more often there is a question mark put over the whole [issue of] global warming as such."

Lewandowski's position provoked immediate criticism from green groups.

"It's terrifying that the man in charge of Europe's budget is someone you might expect to see in Sarah Palin's Republican party," said Greenpeace advisor Ruth Davis.

Women shake Poland's pillars of power

Polish women are marching again this Sunday and Monday. They could succeed where the opposition, the European Commission and other protests failed, and redraw Poland's political map.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity