CEE blocks EU climate ambitions
Central and eastern European (CEE) nations blocked June 20 a bid to set a European Union target of ending greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The proposal to reach zero net emissions by the middle of the century was put forward by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in consultation with several other western European member states. However, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary - with tentative support from Estonia - objected to including the target in the EU’s strategic programme for 2019-24.
The 2050 deadline was then dropped from the official opening statement at a summit in Brussels. Instead, a footnote was added, reading: “for a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050”.
The failure to make the target a strategic goal is a blow to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the rise in global temperature to below 2C.
Although Poland has begun to reconsider its strategy to continue a heavy reliance on coal, and is raising its use of gas and renewables somewhat, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the EU to hand over more funds to help convert his country’s economy.
Poland is the biggest recipient of EU funds in the 2014-20 budgetary window, having been allocated €106bn.
“We were very firmly defending our interests,” Morawiecki told reporters. “Poland is one of those countries that must first have a very detailed compensation package. We must know how much we can get for modernisation."
The Czech Republic is also wary of the next EU budget, which is likely to see less EU funding flowing to CEE member states due to Brexit, as well as their own stronger level of development.
“Why should we decide 31 years ahead of time what will happen in 2050?” asked Prime Minister Andrej Babis. He claimed to be worried that European competitiveness would suffer because other countries, including China and the US, are not taking comparable action.
The Czech Republic is expanding its gas network in anticipation of playing a major role in distributing gas from Nord Stream 2, and the government expects that will help expand gas use domestically. However, the country’s main long term energy strategy is based on nuclear.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also suggested his country wants more cash before agreeing to new targets. That's despite the fact that his government pronounced support for the 2050 carbon neutrality goal on June 17.
The EU currently has a target to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.