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.
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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.