6th Dec 2023

EU malcontents voice anger at climate summit

  • Czech prime minister Andrei Babis (Photo: Consilium)
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The Czech Republic and Poland have blunted EU calls for climate action at the 'COP26' summit in Scotland.

"We need to agree to a robust framework of rules, for example, to make global carbon markets a reality. Put a price on carbon, nature cannot pay that price anymore," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in Glasgow on Monday (1 November).

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The EU had already pledged to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030, but ought to go further, she noted.

"We have to give strong commitments to reduce emissions by 2030. Net zero by 2050 is good, but it's not enough," von der Leyen said.

Most EU leaders have been singing from the same hymn sheet on climate, amid new policies on phasing out combustion-engine cars and rolling out a carbon market for buildings and for the transport sector.

But poorer and more coal and gas-dependent member states in Central and Eastern Europe have been worried by the cost of transition.

And for his part, Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš used the podium in Glasgow to send a different message to the world.

"This is not a deal but an ideology," he said of the EU's "dangerous" and "improper" climate policies.

"The [EU] Green Deal could come at huge social, economic, political, and geopolitical costs. Costs which could create enormous tensions in society and between allies, open doors to radicals," he added.

"Instead of negotiating long-term [gas] contracts with Russia, European politicians are busy blocking the transit capacity of the Nord Stream 2 and Opal pipelines citing worries that the EU will become dependent on Russia," Babiš also said.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this might seem like news to you, but we already are dependent on Russian natural gas and will be for at least another 20 to 30 years," he said.

And speaking the same day, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, warned EU climate goals could fall victim to its unrelated battles on rule of law.

The EU has threatened to withhold funds to countries such as Hungary and Poland over their attacks on independent courts.

An EU court has also called for daily fines of €1.5m on Poland for non-implementation of its injunctions.

But Morawiecki told press in the margins in Glasgow: "In order for Poland to be able to participate in a comparable way as other countries in the achievement of ambitious climate goals, we must be provided with appropriate funds".

"There can be no blackmail from other elements of European policy, because any attempt to take away funds ... will mean that political blackmail from Brussels dominates over the achievement of climate goals," he also said on the summit's symbolic first day.

The COP26 event, which brought together more than 100 world leaders, agreed to halt deforestation by 2030.

But more at issue in its coming days will be national pledges to cut carbon emissions to keep the world from warming by no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"It's time to say: enough. Enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet," UN secretary general António Guterres said.

"The animals are disappearing, the rivers are dying and our plants don't flower like they did before," Txai Surui, a 24-year old indigenous youth leader from the Amazon rain forest, also said.

Some heads of poorer countries, such as Malawi's president Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, said wealthy states were doing too little to help.

"The money pledge to least developed nations by developed nations ... is not a donation, but a cleaning fee," he said.

"Can there be peace and prosperity if one third of the world lives in prosperity and two thirds live under seas and face calamitous threats?", Barbados' prime minister Mia Mottley added.

Meanwhile, the Chinese and Russian leaders did not go to Scotland.

But Brazil and India did make new CO2 pledges, while Russia unveiled a plan to become carbon neutral by 2060.

"Russia ... is making enormous efforts and will continue to do so systematically to reduce the anthropogenic burden on the climate," Russian president Vladmir Putin said by video-link.

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