Thursday

6th Aug 2020

Opinion

Why Poland can't and won't hit 2050 EU Green Deal target

  • Poland is rapidly developing but is still poorer than the West. To ask it to become climate-neutral means doing it faster than many other countries accomplished (Photo: Bogusz Bilewski)

Many capitals, experts and politicians see Poland as the 'enfant terrible' of climate negotiations.

The only EU capital that does not agree to the goal of going climate-neutral by 2050. Everybody asks why? But the answer is darn simple. Money and time.

Read and decide

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The achievement of net climate-neutrality by 2050 is the primary long-term goal of the European Union. In practice, it means that it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the amount absorbed by forests across the EU.

The EU's climate neutrality is central to the European Green Deal – a strategy adopted in December 2019 by the new European Commission.

The document is another step where the EU specifies its earlier commitments, initially made under the Paris Agreement negotiated between the parties to the climate convention in 2015. That agreement was intended to lead to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C (optimally, even below 1.5°C).

The achievement by EU member states of climate-neutrality by 2050 poses to them a challenge, of a varying scale.

As few as three member states of the EU decided to achieve climate-neutrality early: Finland (by 2035), Austria (by 2040) and Sweden (by 2045), whereas Denmark, France and the Netherlands, in spite of being somewhat more ready, plan to achieve the neutrality goal within the same time limit as countries less ready.

The EU's leaders in energy transformation tend to have a high share of hydropower or nuclear power (sometimes both) in the energy production structure, considerably above the proportion of fossil fuels.

In Sweden and Finland, the most important component in the gross electricity production structure is nuclear power. The lie of the land in Austria and Sweden allows them to satisfy much of their energy demand through hydroelectric power plants.

Denmark uses none of the above-mentioned sources, instead, it relies on wind energy.

Poland does not have too much renewables, hydrogen or nuclear in its energy mix.

From a political standpoint it could make a commitment to achieve climate-neutrality although it might be a bit more difficult for a country with such an energy mix.

According to our estimates Poland taking into account the socio-economic development of other countries in Europe and the time they needed to get from a similar circumstance as Poland to the state of committing to climate neutrality it would take Poland to 2056.

Taking into account the countries that have outlined the strategies needed to get there this would mean achieving climate neutrality in 2067.

Although it seems possible for Poland to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 , the date currently set for everybody might be very difficult for one country.

According to a study by McKinsey Poland is going to have to invest €1.2-1.3 trillion in order to sustain the level of energy consumption by the business sector by 2050.

This means modernisation of the current energetic sector. In order to achieve climate neutrality it would mean additional €380 additional investments. This averages to €13 billion per year, i.e. 1-2 percent of Polish GDP.

Compared to Germany and UK?

In Western Europe, Germany and the United Kingdom were once characterised by shares of fossil fuels similar to those currently noted by central and eastern European countries.

Over nearly 50 years, the two countries have made significant progress in departing from a coal-based economy, due to the use of transitional sources – nuclear energy and gas.

Their relatively significant income per inhabitant also allowed them to obtain consumer acceptance of higher transition costs reflected in higher energy prices.

Poland is rapidly developing but is still poorer than the West. To ask it to become climate neutral it means to do it faster than many other countries accomplished that before. This needs to be understood if the Polish government is to commit to an almost impossible goal.

Author bio

Piotr Arak is the head of the Polish Economic Institute, a public think tank in Warsaw.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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